Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

September 16, 2011

Pondering Van Electricity

In pondering what to get for a new refrigerator, I used my battery monitor to see how much juice each thing in my van takes.  It is an interesting exercise.  Here are the results:

September 11, 2011


A decade ago, a terrible thing happened.  The deliberate murder of as many citizens and visitors to this country as a few vicious fundamentalist religionists could manage.  They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and thousands died that day.  Thousands who harmed those vicious people not at all.  That is the definition of terrorism.  The cowardly murder of people who are not at fault for whatever the supposed grievances are.  The effectiveness of the current brand of terrorism is the successful indoctrination of the murderers to also kill themselves.

September 6, 2011

49 days on the road. Lessons Learned

This post is a recap of what worked well and what didn't work on my nearly 2 month trip in the van.    I put key words in bold to make it easier to find a topic in this rather long post.

September 4, 2011

8/21 - Down the hill to home

I got on the road by 9 am. Just made coffee, walked the dog and took off. I forgot to secure the closet door and the dog got scared. This time, her solution was to get on the bed with the cat. We stopped at the Sideling Hill rest stop and I secured it with a bungee. She then resumed her position in the aisle and didn't try the bed again. We got home at 11am.

8/20 - US250

The van that was there last night was gone when I drove out. I'm not a terribly early riser anymore now that I don't have to. That came as a surprise to me after so many years of rising at 4:30 am to get to work. No one bothered me at all in my parking spot. There were 2 cars in the lot behind me. One had a person in the driver's seat who looked like he was napping. It appeared the park had only a single porta-pottie for nature's call.

8/19 - Huron and down the Mitten

Lake Huron

I did a little housekeeping this morning after cooking some eggs for my breakfast. Kids came over to play with my dog again. She sure is popular with children. A couple people were very interested in my van – saying it was what they had in mind. After all was done, I dumped my gray water and filled the tank with fresh water before heading off.

8/18 - Lakes Superior to Huron

Lake Superior looking toward Marquette
I was awakened very early this morning by loud rapping on my van and a man yelling for me to wake up. I finally answered and he asked if I had a dog and if she was red. Yes to the dog, no to the red as I think of her as sandy colored. My drivers door was wide open (yikes) and my dog was roaming around the parking lot. I must not have latched it securely last night. I got back in bed and then heard meowing. Oh no, did the cat get out too? Yup, not in the van and he wanted back in. Not one of my finer moments. Then I couldn't really get back to sleep so I got up early at 6 am.

8/17 - Wisconsin and to Marquette

A northern WI Roadside Park

We drove all the way across the northern part of Wisconsin today thru Eau Clair, Ladysmith. Eagle River, and north east to Marquette. MI where we are camped at a Walmart just before dark. Lots and lots of trees in WI that get increasingly more coniferous as we moved north. There were a few plants already starting to get their fall colors but mostly it was very, very green. Lots of lakes too but I could only see a few glimpses of them because of the heavy forest cover.

8/16 - On the Mighty Miss

The Mighty Mississippi at Wabasha, MN

Tonight we are camped in Wabasha, MN in an overflow lot. It is posted for 72 hours parking and there are a few semis here so it must be fine for boondocking. I found a nearly level spot near what passes for grass. There is a very big field where I could throw a ball for the dog and not worry about distance or traffic for her to get good exercise. The name of this town makes me wonder if there is some relationship to Wabash, as in the river. I was hungry so I stopped at the T-bone restaurant in downtown for a good meal of ribs and veggies. The server said the cook thought it odd but it was a nice mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and peppers. The mighty Mississippi river is still very large up here so far north as befits the drain pipe for the entire center of the country. It is only about 695 feet elevation, dropped from 1000-1200' from the surrounding countryside.

8/15 - To Rochester, MN

After an exercise fetch session with my dog at Cabela's in Mitchell, SD, we drove at 65mph on the freeway to get to Rochester when I said I would. Once I hit the last town in SD, Brandon, suddenly my phone got signal and grabbed all the email its been missing. My USB connector for it seems to not make a connection to charge it so there's another thing gone wrong. It was a long drive of SD grassland changing to MN farmland and tons of corn. In places, the incredibly dark rich soil of southern MN is revealed. Its no wonder that it is farming country despite the harsh winters with that soil. I got to my internet friend's house where his wife saw me and greeted me nicely. Their neighbor is gone for many months at a time so they invited me to camp in the driveway - nice and level with electricity and water. We had a lovely visit and dinner at a new Greek restaurant that their favorite Mexican cook just opened – Opa Opa. It was truly delicious. The owner is a Mexican complete with strong accent who learned to cook in a Greek restaurant but has a Mexican restaurant next door. Funny juxtaposition but the food was great.

Route: I90E – US63N to Rochester, MN

8/14 - The last of the Badlands and heading east

Badlands oasis

I threw the big rope toy for my dog before heading off to see the last of the Badlands. That 6' leash restriction makes it hard on the dogs. Some campers let their dogs run around anyway and I let mine have just a bit of a romp dragging her leash. She was good and came every time I asked.

8/13 -The Badlands, II

Off to the Badlands again, only this time, I took I-90 to Wall. I stopped at Wall Drug, a kitschy paean to self-promotion and excess of silliness. I got a lanyard for a pen to stay put in the cab and ate a bison burger and had a shake there. Ok, I've been there. 

8/12 - The Badlands - and a retreat

I spent a good part of the day doing some housekeeping at the Wind Cave campground and took the dog on the nature trail around the camp. The campground host came around and asked if I was going to stay another night. The check out is noon. The campground was nearly deserted but she said they weren't very strict on the time. I finished up my housework and moved the van to the amphitheater parking lot so I wouldn't be in the camp. When I got out to take the dog for the walk, the extra cat was in the foot well and ran into the van, A couple of maintenance people there asked why I wasn't taking the cat for a walk. (ha, ha)

8/11 - The Black Hills and Wind Cave

Wind Cave Box Formations

Only natural opening to Wind Cave
About the diameter of a cowboy hat brim

In the morning, I went to the visitors center and met a young ranger with a box of dirt and animal tracks. She seemed very surprised that I, an adult, was interested in her display and to learn which animals made which tracks. I learned the pronghorns have very grooved hooves that amount to having cleats. It must help them run so very fast.

8/10 - Devils Tower and the Black Hills

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

In the morning, we drove up to Devils Tower where there were tons of motorcyclists and more and more coming in as time wore on. The visitor's center was packed with them and they reserved the parking lot near the building for them. I found a shady spot for my van in the RV line up along the road and looked at the displays in the visitors center then took the mile loop around the rock. It is a cool chunk of rock with interesting formations. Unfortunately, they banned dogs from all the trails.

8/9 - North to the Black Hills and the Devil

Cambria Salt Mines Vista - WY Black Hills
Just outside of Lusk, there was a bad motorcycle accident. Most of it had been over by the time I got there except for the lane closures. As we moved north, there were more and more motorcycles on the road. I moved over to the shoulder whenever I could to let them pass me by. There's a lot of dry prairie in eastern WY and the winds are relentless. The Black Hills began immediately north of Newcastle. Beautiful drive. The Ponderosa pines look black from a distance, hence the Black name. The vegetation reminded me of the Black Forest near Colorado Springs.