Trip to Toronto to get Tattooed

Trip to Toronto to get Tattooed

 

I took a trip to Toronto to get a Tattoo. I flew there from Los Angeles. Why the heck would I travel that far for a tattoo? I thought it was a stupid thing to do myself, but I did it anyways.

I used to go to Toronto 4-6 times per year for work.  I found a tattoo artist there that I really really liked, and I was trying to set up time with her for a day at the end of one of these drips. She’s good, and she’s really busy, so that never worked out. Not even close.

Now that I’m traveling around to various big cities, I figured I’d find some artists I really like in the cities I’ll be passing through, and set it up for when I can be in their city. I didn’t put much effort into searching. I found some that I liked, but I didn’t like them as much as this one in Toronto.

This summer, I happened to see one day that she was opening up her books to schedule for the next few months. She does at least a few months of scheduling all at once. Without thinking about it much, I emailed her. And it worked out. Then I needed to decide whether I really wanted to do this. I do have a bunch of airline miles from when I used to travel for work. That airline doesn’t fly to Toronto. They do fly to Buffalo, which is a few hours’ drive away. I checked and found that I could ride a bus between the two cities, and they are cheap. I expected that I could find someone in Toronto happy to let me crash on their couch.  Thus, my out-of-pocket spending on the travel would be very little. I decided to make this a fun exercise in traveling on the cheap.

 

Travel Out

An old friend of mine, Stephan, lives in Los Angeles, near the airport, so I hung out with him an evening a couple days before the flight out.

I flew from L.A. to Baltimore, then to Buffalo. Then, I had to wait around at the airport in Buffalo from 11pm to 4am, and then ride the bus to Toronto. I thought I would sleep while waiting at the airport, but I didn’t feel like it, partly because I was worried I’d oversleep and miss the bus. It was a really long day of travel, but it wasn’t so bad. These pictures are from waiting overnight in the Buffalo airport. Back when I used to fly a lot, Buffalo was my favorite airport, so I had a good one to be stuck in.

waiting….

… and waiting…

and waiting….

… more waiting…

(I was mostly doing stuff while there, not just sitting, but sitting makes for better pictures)

Host

A guy that I sort of knew from an online forum let me stay at his place. His home was almost perfectly located within short walks of the places I’d be going – 10 minutes to the tattoo studio, 15 to the middle of downtown, and 20 to the bus stop.

He was a great host. On the first day, he took me with him to an island just a short boat ride from the city, and to a nice beach there. He’s really smart and thoughtful. I had fun talking with him and always learned new things.

Got a new Camera

I got the camera while in LA, and then sold my old one in Toronto. I switched from a really big DSLR (A Nikon D810) to a mirrorless camera (A Fujifilm X-T2). For the way I like to shoot (well, for things other than landscapes) I think the X-T2 will be more fun to use and may work better.

I’m starting off just using old Nikon lenses. I have the ones in the picture above, plus I also got a 200mm and a 300mm (both really old ones from the 1960s or 70s). These old lenses still work well, except that they don’t have the coatings on the glass aren’t nearly as good as modern lenses, so most of them turn to shit when shooting into the sun. I will probably get at least one Fuji lens so I’ll have something that can autofocus and shoot into the sun.

These old lenses are manual focus only. The couple autofocus lenses I still have are manual only when used on the Fuji (and I will probably sell these, as they don’t work that great for manually focusing). I noticed that I was using manual focus for 95% of my pictures, and that factored into deciding to get this new camera.

I think it will be more fun shooting with this one. I like the dials for adjustments. The electronic viewfinder is really nice. It can show a live histogram, punch zoom in for focusing, and has focus peaking (which highlights the things that are in focus).

It’s much smaller than the old camera – about one third of the volume, and it’s lighter. Some of the lenses are also smaller.  It’s a downgrade in technical capability, but I don’t think these will be a big deal (From 36 megapixels to 24, from full-frame to a crop sensor, probably about 1 less stop of dynamic range)

I’d been thinking for a while about getting longer lenses to allow me to shoot a wider range of things, but hadn’t ever gotten around to it.

Before, I had

  • 14 mm
  • 24 mm
  • 50mm

Now, I have (shown in F.F. equivalents)

  • 18 mm
  • 36 mm
  • 75 mm
  • 150 mm
  • 300 mm
  • 450 mm

The old camera was more expensive, but I bought the new one new (there were few available used at decent prices). In the end I think I’ll come out about $500 behind. That’s not bad at all for a camera that I like better and for much longer lenses.

For some time now, I’ve been annoying myself with the way I shoot and edit. I was spending too much time sorting through pictures and editing them, and too often I was doing those things weeks after shooting them. I wanted to start shooting more, sorting more quickly and deleting more, and doing less/quicker editing.

So far, I’ve been doing a good job with that. I’ve been doing some fun projects at the beach – taking pictures of peoples’ dogs running around and playing fetch, and when I catch them out, surfers.

I’ve shot 5,000 pictures with the new camera in less than a month, and I usually sort and edit them within a day or two.  With the D810, I only took 10,000 over a full year.

Trying Street Photography

I spent the day before my tattoo walking around downtown Toronto. It’s a fun city to explore. There are varied neighborhoods and a lot of people out and about. I played around with shooting street photography

 

The Tattoo

I got a big one. It took 6 hours. For me, that was a long time to sit still and get poked.

This was immediately after she finished it:

And these were, I think, the next day. It got very little scabbing and healed quickly.

Travel back didn’t include quite as much waiting, but it was more exhausting, because having a big new tattoo is already sort of draining. But, I made it back, and then I had all the time in the world to sit around and recover 🙂

 

Oh yeah, here’s a little video I put on Instagram:

 

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August Adventures – Part 1 – Colorado

Colorado

For the first three weeks of August, I moved southwest through Colorado from Denver. I’d done a ton the previous month Utah – lots and lots of hiking, exploring, landscape photography, and waking up at night to shoot stars. Then the family trip I went on in July that included a TON of driving also kind of wore me out. All this adventuring and traveling can wear a guy out :-D. I was ready to take it easy. So I didn’t do a lot of photography or hiking in Colorado.

 

Map of travels:

 

Frisco:

One of my friends got arrested many years ago in Frisco. He said the jail had a window with a nice mountain view.

Leadville Library

whoaaaa baby. Fancy.

Camping near Independence Pass (On the way from Leadville to Aspen)

This was the first place I stopped to camp in Colorado outside of cities. It was so rich and fertile – with plants, water, and animals all over. Lots of trees, grass, flowers, strawberries,  deer, marmots, birds,  and streams in every canyon. Once the snow melts away up here, this land provides an incredible surge of life.

It was also pretty cold up here! I’d put on more clothes or take off clothes every hour or two.

I found a beautiful place to camp. Just spectacular.

This place filled me back up – with energy, wonder, creativity, and new ideas.

 

Spot near Ouray

Ouray is a cool town. It is touristy, but it’s good. There are really steep rocky mountains shooting up on three sides of the city. I guess there’s some hot spring pool on one end of town that I didn’t check out. The downtown strip is nice. There’s a bookstore there with a very good selection of  books on outdoors subjects.

There’s also a road just outside Ouray with places to camp within walking distance of town. I found myself one and set up there for a week. It was great being able to stroll into town when I felt like it. That gets me the best of both worlds – I can stay put camping somewhere and not have to move the van, I can go for hikes from there, but I can also go into town to get food, get rid of trash, and go to the library if I want to use my computer on a very cloudy day.

I’d been looking for some books on foraging edible wild food. They can be hard to find in bookstores, but a store in Ouray has many, so I bought a couple. Now I need to forage $60 worth of food just to break even on the 3 books I’ve bought.

There were a lot of plants with berries out where I was camping. Here’s the first plant I identified: Serviceberries. They’re tasty.

 

At age 35, I’ve started drinking Coffee

There was really no need to. I’d been perfectly happy without it all my life. I always like how it smells but don’t like any of the bitterness that a lot of coffee has.

Sometimes in coffee shops I’d get tired of drinking tea, because the tea they have is often crappy, or they don’t know how to make it right, and coffee smells so damn good. So I started trying lattes. And man, they can be nice. Of course, if you know me, you know that if I’ve started drinking coffee, I’m certainly going to start making it myself.

 

So, here is one of my earliest attempts at making a latte. I’ve started out using an Aeropress, some old (Expired!) Starbucks coffee that I ground at the at a tiny grocery store in Ouray,  and frothing milk by shaking it in a jar.

Over the next few months I’ll be trying out some different equipment, and seeing if I can make real and good espresso myself in my van in the middle of nowhere. I’ll let you know how it goes. I know a lot of you will need to have your precious coffee while traveling 😃. (as I write this, on 9/8/17, I’ve gotten a nice grinder, a manual espresso maker, and a stovetop milk steamer. I’m halfway through my first bag of coffee using these, and I can make a latte significantly better than Starbucks. I still have a lot of testing and learning to do.)

If you know of really good coffee roasters in the southwest corner of the U.S. (CA, AZ, UT, NV), please tell me about them.

 

Another Campsite:

I hung out in Durango for about a week. It’s a nice town. Then I camped a bit to the west off of highway 161, but didn’t find a great spot:

Patreon Account:

When I was visiting and talking with my family in July, some of them urged me to start up a Patreon account and see how interested people were. For those not familiar, Patreon is a platform where folks who enjoy the creative output of people can give them a few bucks per month or per podcast or whatever, and sometimes the creator gives those supporters access to extra material.

So, I’m trying it out. You can see my Patreon profile here. I’ve enjoyed sharing my travels and photography here and on Instagram, and I will continue doing so just the same.  On Patreon, I will be sharing more:

A map of all the places I’ve camped:

  • It shows every place I’ve camped, outside of cities. These are nearly all completely free places to dispersed camp. They are spots where you’ll have spectacular views and likely have your own space, away from other campers.
  • I update this each month with the new places I’ve camped. I’ll be exploring more parts of the western U.S and filling in more areas with awesome places to camp.
  • For each campsite, I share these details:
    • A subjective rating of how good it is (x/5)
    • A picture of the campsite or area
    • The type of land this site is on (BLM, National Forest, etc.)
    • Notes and details describing the site and the area
    • Whether it has a Verizon cellular signal
    • The altitude
    • Road conditions on the way to the campsite
    • If I’ve made a blog post containing pictures or details of this site or area, a link to it.
  • There are currently over 50 campsites documented on the map (as of August 2017). Most of them are in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Here’s what it looks like:

How-to articles for living and traveling in a vehicle or camper:

  • These are thorough and detailed articles showing you how to start traveling, and how to live very well on the road.
  • Most posts are over 3,000 words and have many pictures.
  • Here is a link to a free post, so you can see what they are like:
  • I expect to publish one new How-To Post each month
  • These are the posts I’ve published so far:
  • List of future How-To posts:
    • Using My Maps and Google Maps to save locations
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Getting Mail and Packages
    • Logistics of Full Time Travel – Residency
    • Exercising anywhere, without a gym
    • How to live well and have fun while spending little money
    • Vehicle Type choice for living and/or traveling in
    • How to deal with the police
    • Cooking and eating healthy and tasty food in a van
    • How to drive – for better fuel mileage and longer life
    • Finding WIFI in cities
    • Making Money while Traveling
    • Avoiding Trouble in Cities
    • Key Lessons for van interior building
    • How To Be Well-Prepared when Going Camping
    • How Not to Die While Camping
    • (and I’m open to requests and suggestions)

 

I’ve posted about it a couple times on Instagram and have a few patrons so far. If you’d like access to these extras, or if you’d just like to throw a couple bucks my way per month because you like what I share, here’s where to do it.

Moving on – into Utah:

I never got excited about the eclipse to make sure I was in the right part of the country for it. The moon blocks the sun for a bit and it gets sort of dark. Ok. That seems a lot less spectacular to me than a nice sunset or seeing a lot of stars. The eve of the eclipse, I did look at the coverage map compared to the direction I’d be traveling, anyways, and decided to move on earlier than I would have in order to get a bit more north where there would be a little more coverage. So I went up to Moab the day of. I think there was about 85% coverage there, which, it turns out, is quite underwhelming.

 

 

Zion Canyon: My Favorite Place in the World

Zion Canyon My favorite place in the world

Earlier this summer, I spent some time in Zion National Park, and part of it, Zion Canyon,  became my favorite place in the world.

I’d seen pictures and heard about it and I went in with high expectations. Upon arrival, I drove through the park from east to west. The main part of the park – which has Zion Canyon – is in the southwest corner. The drive was magic. Just freaking incredible. It was one spectacular view after another, without the slightest break other than while driving through the two tunnels in the park.

I spent the next week exploring Zion Canyon – hiking, bicycling, taking pictures, and walking in the river.  It’s like an eden. The open part of the canyon is about 10 miles long and up to maybe a mile wide. At the north end it closes in with the river running between two steep sandstone walls. The canyon is rich with trees and various types of plants, and they are spaced out perfectly to allow walking everywhere you want.

I took many pictures here. I hope they do justice in giving you an idea how beautiful this place is.

 

SEEN FROM UP HIGH

When I imagine an ideal landscape, what I see is essentially the Zion canyon. It’s one of the small number of places I’ve been dreaming about seeing. So – rather than hurry through a corner of Utah, I came over here.

Today I hiked up to angel’s landing. I find it a bit funny how the Mormon folks gave Zion all these super religious names. But once I’ve seen it, I really can’t fault them.

I’ve heard how busy Zion gets in the summer. I expected hordes of people marching terribly slowly up the hike. But it wasn’t so bad.

 

 

 

Once at the top of Angel’s Landing,  I walked further, down to the very edge of the cliff overlooking the canyon. I found this ledge. No one else came down for the 4 hours I spent on it.  I watched as the sun moved through the sky and it’s light changed the color and appearance of the sandstone walls. I watched clouds floating through the area that darkened or illuminated parts of the canyon floor. I read a book. I took a nap. I took these pictures. And I felt wonderful.

I’ve been traveling the U.S. for a year now. This view amazed me more than any other. It was the first place where I cried from joy.

 

 

 

IN THE CANYON

Zion is the kind of place where if you come and spend a day walking around the canyon and taking in the views, the sounds, and feel the river flowing by your legs – you will leave this canyon feeling like you’re winning at life. It helps you realize the insignificance of whatever problems you’re having in your life.

 

 

 

 

Zion Canyon: ten miles of natural magnificence.

It’s my favorite place on Earth

Just a few hours here, and my life feels perfect.

18

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! To behold this alone is worth the pains of any excursion” – John Muir.

I don’t know if he was talking about any specific mountains, but it definitely could’ve been these in Zion canyon.

The canyon is fairly narrow, with high walls, so the whole thing is only illuminated at once for a few hours each day. Outside of those hours, the sunlight is always changing. And when it shines straight on the sides of these sandstone mountains, they look glorious

 

 

This swarm of people in the picture below are in the Virgin river at the north end of the canyon. During the busier times of year, the river is like this every day – with about a thousand pairs of feet carefully walking along the slick and hard rocks under the water. You have to walk carefully on these rocks and the crowd kind of look like zombies because of it.

Don’t let this dissuade you from going to Zion. Most of the park has WAY fewer people. Only the few most popular spots are like this. But the whole canyon is just about as nice as the most popular spots.

And even in this river, with all these people, it’s still entirely worth going. There have been some other scenic places – Horseshoe Bend is one example – where there are tons of  people, and where they can get distracting and annoying to the point where I don’t enjoy the view more than anywhere else. But I never felt that way about Zion. It’s so damn good that it doesn’t even matter that some parts are crowded

 

DRIVING THROUGH

Driving (and riding my bike) through the park totally blew me away. I drove through at the perfect time of day. As I drove, the evening sun danced back and forth behind high cliff walls. Many other areas have beautiful spots that are spaced out. The entire road through Zion is incredible. The only sections of road that aren’t amazing are while you’re inside the two tunnels in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

….END

July Travels – Side Trip to the East

Side Trip to the East Tennessee North Carolina

Last we left off, I was just getting into Colorado a the end of June. I went to Grand Junction and was trying to get my bearings on where I should go in Colorado. I got some maps, and a book, and was about to start looking and planning.  I called my dad for input. He’s been around a lot of parts of Colorado. He gave me some input on where to go and then said “you should just come out to Denver and come along with me to Tennessee. I’m leaving in a week.” So, how about a little side trip to the east?

Why Go? 

I’ve been to a lot of parts of the U.S., but I haven’t spent much time in the southeast. I’ve seen how cheap houses can be in the there – like $80k for a decent-looking house that’s too big for me – and I’d been wanting to see if I thought I might like to live there some day.

As I was building my van, I assumed I’d venture out through the southeast. But I’ve gotten to enjoy moving slowly, and the idea of driving my van all the way out there hasn’t seemed too exciting. But now I had a free ride. My dad was going out there to spend time in the northeast part of Tennessee to check if he’d like to move there. My brother and his girlfriend were already out just a few hours from there, near the middle of North Carolina, looking for a house to buy. My Brother in law and nephew would be coming out as well. My Aunt might be coming out. Plus, on the way back, my BIL would be stopping for a few days at my Mom and Step Dad’s house. I’d also of course, see my sister who lives in Denver. So… just for driving to Denver, I could tag along out to the east, and I could see ALL of my immediate family in one trip. This was a no brainer. So I left the van at my Dad’s house in Denver and tagged along.

Map of travels

 

What Northeast Tennessee Seems Like

  • Lots of serious Christians (I learned that it’s a thing in the southwest to put a Jesus sign in your yard. They are like the signs people put for politicians, but they say “Jesus” or “Thank you Jesus”.  In my 35 years of life, I don’t recall ever seeing a sign like that. These kinds of little oddities fascinate me)
  • Decent place. Most people take pretty good care of their homes and stuff
  • Lots of young Christian single mothers
  • Lots of people without a lot of money
  • Really nice place to go for bike rides
  • Quite a lot of nice waterfalls

 

What Northwest N.C. Seems Like

  • Patchwork of some areas with very serious Christians, and some areas with young/hipster/earthy people (like Asheville), and of course, lots of normal seeming places.
  • Homes and stuff area little bit nicer than northeast TN
  • Very humid down at low elevation in the middle of the state.
  • Also seems like a nice place to bicycle and also has nice waterfalls
  • People told me there are some areas northwest of Asheville that have small home communities, very outdoorsy people, maybe some communes or something, and generally a lot of people that would probably like me.

 

 

Family Stories

Ice Cream!

My nephew really seems to like ice cream. One day, in Asheville, we stopped at a little store and his dad bought him some ice cream. Then as we were walking, we passed an ice cream store and saw a picture of the ice cream they serve – which looked like a large serving. My nephew got disappointed that he’d gotten the small ice cream when there was this bigger better ice cream nearby. He was really pissed off about it for a moment. His Dad and I got a good laugh out of the worst thing happening in this kid’s entire day being that the ice cream he did have wasn’t quite as large as is served somewhere else. After this, we had a sort of “what is your worst first-world problem today?” game with the nephew each day.

We also started a practice of buying ice cream on each day that the temperature outside went over 90 degrees. We had ice cream every day for the rest of the trip.

Nephew and brother in law. The nephew had summer homework books to do. I taught him how to count in sevens to help with his math (and to count in other numbers, forwards and backwards). It took a lot of practice and I’m pretty sure he hated me at the end of it   😀

I’m not an animal!

After my Dad and I initially arrived at the place he rented in Tennessee, I was heading out to the grocery store. My Dad asked what I was going to get. I said “ahhhhh, some vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, some fruit, a chicken, …” he interrupted me saying “I’m not an animal! I don’t want all this vegetable crap. I want some real food! Hamburger, chips, buns, eggs, and bacon.”. I got a big kick out of this because my Dad has a nice garden and really enjoys eating the vegetables from it.

I’m writing this about three weeks after the fact and now I’ve forgotten the other funny family stories.

 

We went on a couple hikes. It rained like CRAZY on one of them. I mean full on serious  rain forrest torrential downpour kind of rain. Some other hiker fell and broke a rib and had to be rescued from the trail.

My nephew is quite good at finding and even sometimes recognizing plants. He found some edible plants when we went to the botanical garden, and a lot of mushrooms on one hike. His dad teaches him this stuff.

Big views like this are hard to come by up in the Appalachians. There are so many trees that you can rarely see far away.

 

While visiting my Mom and Stepdad, we went fishing one day. As you can clearly see, we are serious champion-level fishermen.

We did all catch at least one fish each, and they were all about this size. I took this picture below in a way to make the fish appear as big as possible, but I think you can still tell it’s not so big. We let them all back in the pond.

 

Back In Denver

After we got back to Denver, I spent a week or two hanging around the city. I’d taken so many pictures in Utah that it was a lot of work to sort through all of them and edit the better ones.  You still haven’t seen all of them. I’m going to take it a bit easier on the pictures for the next month or so. I did so much in Utah that I need a bit of a break from it. I basically just bummed around town, hung out with some women, ate ice cream, and helped my dad fix his tiller. We also had a pizza party. Yeah buddy!

One night, my dad and I watched some UFC fights, and then right after they ended, we heard a weird noise outside. It was his trash can falling over. It was a raccoon! My dad has a sort of ongoing war with raccoons. They come eat his trash often, and a raccoon family tried to move into his attic, which can really mess the place up.

My dad yelled out”Get the .22!” as if I knew where he stores it. His .22 rifle is an antique. I remember shooting it some 20 years ago and it was less powerful than a BB gun. I shot at pop cans and the .22 bullet would bounce off the can rather than going through. I don’t think he fixed it in any in-depth way, so I’m confused about how it works well enough to kill animals now… It does though. He used it to take out the raccoon that moved into his attic. He also has chickens, and raccoons love eating chickens.

So he went and got the gun while I stood outside and looked at the raccoon. It looked back at me for a while and then with no care in the world it started checking out the trash.

Dad came out with the gun, took aim, and BANG! The raccoon growled at us. My dad pumped the gun and said “shit! I need bullets”. He went inside to get some.  I heard the raccoon’s little claws on the concrete as he scurried off into the night.  The gun doesn’t reload properly so it took a while to reload it and by then the raccoon seemed long gone. We searched for a blood trail or the raccoon and didn’t find a thing. We initially thought he hit it, but now we weren’t so sure. I think that little guy will be back again.

 

What’s in store for August?

Colorado Mountains! Here we go!

 

 

 

June 2017 Adventures

June

I spent June exploring the wonderful state of Utah. It’s full of inviting deserts, lush high altitude hills, wide and deep canyons, river washes, cozy slot canyons, arches, hoodoos, and so on. SO MUCH STUFF!

I shot a TON of pictures in June, and this post will be full of them.  I’m also experimenting with dumping in some of the captions I’ve written over the last month for my Instagram posts.

 

MAP OF TRAVELS

I started out June down in the southwest corner of the state, in Zion, and ended in Grand Junction, just across the Colorado border.

CEDAR CITY

Wow! So many fucking kids. What’s in the water here!?

TOWARDS BRYCE CANYON

I camped for a few days in Dixie National forest between Cedar City and Bryce Canyon. It looks like there are many good places to camp around here.

 

This nest was only about 15 feet from my van, so I got to watch the parent(s) come and go.

I shot these pictures in Dixie National Forest, east of Cedar City. It’s not that far from Bryce Canyon National Park – which looks incredibly different.

From where I camped for only one day, I saw 5 or 10 deer out of my van windows. There’s a meadow nearby that I walked over to in the evening, and there were a few different groups of deer there – about 40 in total.

I had wonderful songs from birds. And I had wonderful sunlight shining in through these aspen trees.

I met a Peruvian guy up here while looking for a campsite. He lived in an old style wooden trailer – basically a covered wagon. The wagon appears to sit there full time (he had no vehicle). He works up there, herding sheep. He’s been in the U.S. for 10 years, but doesn’t know much english, because he’s spent those ten years alone in places like this. I saw a video once about these sheep herders on Youtube, and it was really interesting. The herders are basically all guys from Southern America. They stay up in the National Forests full time, in these old style trailers, or sometimes in cabins. The sheep owners bring them food and water, and move them and the trailers to other locations.  I would’ve taken a picture of him and his wagon, but he didn’t want me to. .

I love this kind of forest

Aspen trees all over the place. Some old dead trees that have been on the ground a long time

Lush grass

Free of thick plants or bushes, so you can walk everywhere

Birds singing their songs, flying around, and keeping their eggs warm

Deer meandering through and looking relaxed

Sunlight filtering in through the Aspen leaves

The air clean and a little bit sweet smelling

A breeze blowing through and making nice white noise as it filters through the leaves

Nowhere else to go. Nowhere else to be. No worries. No crowds of people, or traffic, or noise, or work deadlines, or chores to do.

The world simplified down to this area and it’s beautiful balances of plants, animals, sunlight, and weather. 

Thoughts while driving on a road like this and looking for a campsite:

The day is full of possibilities…

Will I find a wonderful place to camp?

Will the roads be good for riding my bike?

Will there be nice sunsets?

Will I see deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, BEARS?

Will be it windy, rainy, cold, hot, cloudy?

Will there be birds singing songs for me? (well, not for me, but I’ll still get to enjoy them)

Will there be a cell phone signal to keep me connected to the parts of the world I wish to be?

How long will I feel like staying before I have the urge to move on?

 

DRONE SMASHED TO PIECES!

While I as on my way to the campsite above, I stopped to fly my drone. And while flying, it turned over past 90 degrees sideways and dropped like a sack of rocks. It fell from about 80 feet in the air and crashed into the ground really hard. As soon as I saw it tip over like that, I figured that was it – no more drone for me.

The plants weren’t all that crazy thick where this happened, but it still took me a while to find the drone. As expected, it was smashed really bad. The camera and gimbal broke off entirely and I didn’t find them. One of the arms was bend really bad. The body was all smashed up and cracked open. I’m sure a bunch of the electronic connections inside were broken. I gathered up all the pieces that I could find and threw them in the trash in the next city.

So – what went wrong? I didn’t crash it into a tree or anything, it just turned over and fell from the sky. I had made some adjustments to the controls sensitivity recently, but I thought they seemed conservative, even within the ranges available. The drone had been drifting more than usual during this flight – downwards, and I probably should’ve stopped flying it to recalibrate it. I’d been flying it for about ten minutes, and when I pushed the control knobs to have the drone turn and fly quickly, it tipped.

There are many different things that could’ve gone wrong, but I don’t know which did. It could’ve been that my controls adjustments were actually too much. It could’ve been that it got too far out of calibration. One of the arms was bent from crashes that occurred while the previous owner had it and it’s propeller blade often hit the arm while flying. That propeller could’ve broken. A motor could’ve failed. There could’ve been a short in one of the many wire and connections. Who knows. But… no more drone.

Daaaaang. I really would like to get another – a Mavic Pro, which are small enough to carry on hikes. Flying the drone and editing the videos was a lot of fun. But…. I don’t like the idea of spending ~$1,300 on something that can suddenly fall out of the sky and smash to pieces. There is crash replacement insurance available at a reasonable cost. I just still don’t feel like spending the money on it right now.

For a couple weeks after, it sucked  when I saw a place that would be awesome to use a drone. But, you know, this kind of “sucks” is entirely imagined in my own head… It’s someone thinking “oh man, damn it, it would be so cool to drive a Ferrari right now, this sucks!”

 

Another Campsite:

 

I dipped my toes, or, maybe my whole leg, into astrophotography. I have a bunch of other shots I’ll share soon in a separate blog post.

        

ROVA sent me a copy of their second issue. For those interested in living and/or traveling in a Van, RV, or camper, you may like this magazine. There were good articles in this one.

    

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

I spent 4 or so days in Bryce Canyon. I don’t like it anywhere near as much as Zion.

In Utah, there are many striking landscapes. Many of them are from water carving out rocks and dirt into beautiful landscapes and shapes.  Zion has hard sandstone rock, and Bryce has a softer, more dirt-like material. So in Zion you have these flattish edges of hard rocks that I find beautiful. In Bryce, it looks more like dirt that has eroded, and I think it’s ugly.

I grew up in the midwest, where plants can grow everywhere. If a yard or some land has bare dirt that then erodes, it is a sign that the land is not cared for, or that it’s owner is incompetent, and his precious topsoil is washing away.

 

 

GRAND STAIRCARE ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT 

Excalante National Monument is huge. I mean HUGE. Zion National Park is 230 square miles. Escalante is 2,900 square miles. Plus, it’s surrounded on all sides by federal land for hundreds of miles. And basically no one lives permanently in Escalante N.M. This is the most remote part of Utah, and maybe of the entire lower 48 states.

There are some awesome places in Escalante, particularly along a road called Hole in the Rock Road. There are arches, slot canyons, big interesting rocks, and a wonderful hike down a canyon through what’s called Coyote Gulch.

Mormons

Hole in the Rock Road  follows a trail taken by Mormons on their way to found a new city on the east side of the Colorado River. 200 people set out with 83 wagons and 1,000 head of livestock. Crossing the river turned out to be very difficult. The river has cut a ~1,000 foot canyon through the rock. They  found a place where the canyon wall was cracked and spent months blasting it open and making a very rough and very steep path down to the river. They went on and formed a town called Bluff, where now about 300 people live.

Plans

I really wanted to go to Coyote Gulch, which contains the Jacob Hamblin Arch. Coyote Gulch is basically at the end of Hole In the Rock road, 40 or 50 miles south of the highway. There was a big forest fire nearby, making a lot of smoke, and I was concerned that the smoke appeared to be going down that way – basically straight south along the road. At the visitor’s center in Escalante, I asked about it. The guy said that the smoke clears out about a third of the way down the road.

Slot Canyons – Tunnel and Zebra

After setting off town the road, the first place I stopped was where a trail leads to two slot canyons. These were fun.

        

While I was exploring and photographing these slot canyons, it got really, really smokey. It was clear that the guy at the visitors center was either wrong or has very perceptions of smoky vs clear. I could also see all the smoke floating straight south, in the same direction as the road, and too all the areas I wanted to go camp and hike and photograph. I don’t like the smoke, and it basically ruins any landscape pictures of things more than 20 feet away. So I decided to head back up to the highway and go northeast and get out of the smoke. I expect that I’ll come through Utah again and that I’ll make it all the way to the bottom of this road.

DRIVE THROUGH THE REST OF UTAH

It was getting really hot in Utah, and I decided to get over to the rockies sooner rather than later. So I drove a couple hundred miles from Escalante to Colorado in 2 or 3 days.

I drove through Capital Reef N.P., and it looks good. I was considering going down to Moab and Arches, but decided that I might as well go up into the mountains and leave those places for some later and cooler time.

Various Driving Pictures

 

This is the Escalante Canyon, seen from along hwy 12. Wow! Some day I want to come back and hike along and inside this canyon. Also, hwy 12 south of Boulder is an INCREDIBLE road.

Hike near the Escalante River

I hiked up along some creek that meets the Escalante right by hwy 12. There are two neat things there: various native rock art, and a big arch.

I believe some of this is recent/fake (probably the ones on the outsides)?))

A hundred handprints. These were up along a rock wall and were visible from quite far away if you knew they were there.

And here’s the arch:

Hey where are you camped? … Nowhere..

  

May 2017 Adventures

May 2017 Adventures

In May I spent some time camping with my brother, found my favorite campsite so far in all of my travels, and played around with the drone and video editing. I went to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, further up the Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend, and Zion National Park. Wow!

MAP OF TRAVELS

May 2017 Adventures

I started out the month in Las Vegas. I’d been there to meet up with friends who flew down from Portland. I had a wonderful time with them.  I drove from Vegas to Sedona to meet my brother. On the way, I stopped for a night in Flagstaff. That city really has a pull on me. I like it a lot. It’s an awesome place to spend some time during the summer.

SEDONA – WITH MY BROTHER 

My brother, Brandon (@thetinglytraveler ), realized he had multiple sclerosis in 2015.  He was having a standard successful American life: a stable job that he was very good at and was promoted to manager, a nice house in Denver with a sweet garden, time and money for his hobbies

If I understand correctly, the biggest challenge he had (other than now M.S.) was all the stress at work. He was extremely loyal to his company, and thus ended up having a lot of responsibility and stress there.

After his diagnosis, he changed his life quickly. He Started eating healthier and running, and lost excess weight he’d been carrying for years. He found a wonderful girlfriend. He started thinking about how to reduce his stress at work.

House prices had went up a lot in Denver. Brandon sold his house in Denver and moved in with his girlfriend. Then, they sold her house. They both quit their jobs. They got a truck and a travel trailer. They’ve been traveling around the U.S. the last few months.

They expect to choose an area to buy some land and start a homestead. He’ll probably work more. I expect it will be in a technical role that he enjoys.

I’m proud of my brother, and I’m excited for them.

We crossed paths Sedona and camped together.  It was nice camping with them and catching up on their travels so far, trying to give each-other things that we no longer use and don’t need (neither of us were successful at offloading much of anything), comparing ideas of places to travel to, sharing some meals, going on a hike, and so on.

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

Remember that drone that Dan of Big Ox Little Bird gave me a few months ago? I had a heck of a time getting a charger and batteries for it. I’d gotten the charger after about a month, and one of the batteries I ordered didn’t arrive in Phoenix until after I’d left the city. (The other never did).  When my brother passed through Phoenix, he picked it up from me from my cousin before heading north to Sedona. So, I finally got to use the drone. It’s a lot of fun.

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

This was the first video I recorded with it. I wasn’t even checking the exposure and the sky is all blown out.

We had loose plans to travel together for a while. We weren’t sure how long it would work out, as we have our own sort of speeds of movement, and they would need to go back to Denver fairly soon. We made plans to go up to the Grand Canyon next. I got itchy feet about a day earlier than they did, and headed up there. it was useful for me to go first as I could scope out potential campsites for them. Their trailer doesn’t have a lot of ground clearance, and their dog is scared of other dogs and people. So – I could go check what the roads were like and try to find a campsite that’s a bit secluded from other campers.

The next day, after they ran errands and started heading up, they had trouble with their trailer. Something with the wheel bearings – I believe not having quite enough grease and basically burned up. So they were stuck down a bit south of Flagstaff for a few days.

GRAND CANYON

I camped in the National Forest south of the Canyon. I ended up staying in 3 or 4 different spots. I’d drive over to the canyon each day, and then just go to a different spot. At the spots nearest to Tusayan, there was a lot of low flying helicopters, so I only stayed there one day.

I didn’t really like taking pictures of the canyon. It’s so huge that the other side is all hazy. When shooting with a wide lens, it’s basically all the same and just blends together and looks flat and boring. I did go shoot there during sunrise one morning. I didn’t think I got much of anything, but I did end up with one picture I really like (the first one).

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

After a few days, there was some cold weather approaching. I didn’t know when my brother would get the trailer fixed and head up, and I wouldn’t be of any help if I went back down there. I wasn’t crazy about the canyon, so I headed off to a really cool campsite that my brother found on Instagram

ALONG THE COLORADO RIVER

This was my favorite campsite of all my travels so far. It’s on some BLM land that goes right up near the edge of the canyon. It’s near the old site of Lee’s Ferry, and it’s quite remote. It’s only like 10 miles from Page as a bird flies, but it’s 50 miles of driving.

I stayed here for about two weeks. I ended up making 3 trips into page. One of those was an extra trip to go buy a 1.5mm hex key. A hundred miles for a $.10 tool.

Why? Well, I was flying the drone a lot, and realized it had a problem. The gimbal was shaking around a lot. With a little research online, I saw it was likely because of a certain set screw not being tight enough. I needed a 1.5mm hex key to tighten it. I have a ton of hex keys in various sizes. I had a 2mm, and I believe a 1mm. But no 1.5. I wanted to fix it while I was still camping out here because it was an awesome place to record drone footage. Tightening the set screw did fix the gimbal vibration issue. So, then I had to re-record all the clips I’d gotten so far.

I have a lot more pictures from here, and an incredible nice drone video, but I’ll save it for a specific post about the spot. Here’s a taste of it:

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

I was flying my drone a lot and one evening I was sorting through clips and editing them together. The way I had my van parked, the setting sun would shine in through a window and reflect on my computer screen, so I had my curtains up. Those curtains sort of blocked out my view of the sunset.

While editing, I glanced out the front windshield and noticed a bloom of color on the clouds. A brilliant pink.

I jolted out of my seat, grabbed my camera bag and tripod, and scurried over to the edge of this canyon. I only had about 5 minutes before it faded away

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

PAGE & HORSESHOE BEND

I shot there at 3 different times. Here’s a picture from the first time. Yep, looks just like all the other Horseshoe Bend pictures.

 

May 2017 Adventures - Horseshoe Bend

I wasn’t that crazy about this place. The view is nice. There’s just so many people coming in and out and taking the same pictures. It’s sort of a zoo. At one point while I was set up and shooting, an old Asian lady who couldn’t speak english thrusted her camera into my hands and gestured for me to take a lot of pictures at different zoom ranges. I think she was scared to go up to the edge.  That was actually kind of nice because she had a Sony a7 and I’d been wondering what it was like to use their electronic viewfinders.

ZION NATIONAL PARK

After a couple weeks near page, I figured I should get on into Utah. I’ve never been to southern Utah, and I’ve been looking forward to it a lot.

I drove back through Page and then to Zion National Park.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I drove through the park – on that road that goes through the south end. WOW! It’s an incredible drive. It’s a continual stretch of amazing views – literally the whole way, other than while inside the two tunnels you go through. The next day I hiked up Angel’s Landing.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I’ll probably have a bunch more pictures to share from Zion. I spent a couple days walking around the canyon and shooting.

PLANS FOR JUNE:

It’s gotten hot, and I’ve left Zion.  I’ll come back again at the end of the summer or in the fall. I have a loose idea of where I’ll go next – maybe something like what’s shown below. This whole stretch from Cedar City to Zion looks super remote. The towns on the way are extremely tiny. I haven’t researched actual places, so if you know the area and have any suggestions, please share them!

 

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels

I spent most of my April in Arizona. A few incoming packages took longer than expected, and kept me near Phoenix longer than I wanted. I camped up north of Phoenix along Highway 87, and also near Sedona. Then I headed over into Nevada to meet some friends in Vegas.

Here’s everywhere I went in April (starting in Phoenix)

April 2017 Travels

SPOT WEST OF 87

(33.94633,-111.45529)

There’s a nice little group of spots to camp just a couple miles off hwy 87. I’ve camped here three different times. This last time, I went down to a spot that’s a bit off of the road and behind a hill. I’d never seen until midway through my second time camping there when I noticed that a few people went back there. It’s a little hairy getting there (the road is slanted sideways), and it’s really hard trying to find a flat spot down there.  But it’s nice though.

April 2017 Travels
You can see the van down there near the middle of the picture

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

PHOENIX AGAIN:

I drove back into the city to pick up a package, and stayed for a few days. I watched the last few hours of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race online. That’s always a fun race to watch.

SEDONA

During two of my three vehicle living test trips, I spent time in Sedona. It was one of the places where I decided I wanted my current lifestyle. I’d been looking forward to going back. I tried to go camp in the exact same place I did the first time there, but it was occupied. I ended up camping in three different spots

1 – Southwest of Sedona: (34.68848, -111.86182). 

This is one of the spots that a guy at the visitors center recommended. It was ok, but not very good as far as campsites near Sedona go.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

2 – West of Sedona – Forest Service Road 525c. (34.879, -111.94486)

This was close to the where I’d camped on the test trips.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

It’s close to the Robber’s Roost – a cave overlooking the way into Sedona. Robbers and bandits, used to hide out here when they had some heat. From the cave, they could see people approaching from far away. Also, while in the cave, you can hear people from below very well.

Robber's Roost

Robber's Roost

 

3 – “Base Camp” – Forest Service Road 525 (34.82324, -111.90566)

I went into town in the afternoon, and didn’t leave until it was starting to get dark. I didn’t want to sleep in Sedona, so I came out to this spot – just about the first place you can camp on 525 when coming off the highway. Many people stop here and then find another more secluded spot somewhere along 525 or 525c and move to it.

I stayed here one night. Some balloons landed nearby.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

4 – Forest Service Road 525 (34.8682, -111.90365)

Near the north end of where you can camp on 525 is closer to the hiking and biking action. A lot of the spots on 525 can hold many rigs and end up being communal spots. There were 3-5 other groups present while I was there.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona
My campsite is in this picture, over towards the right

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

The weather was absolutely perfect in Sedona and I was enjoying being there. After about a week, I was getting itchy to move on though. I had plans to meet some friends in Vegas at the end of April, so I found a place to camp on the way there.

LAKE MOHAVE – Telephone Cove

(35.23068, -114.59371)

Telephone Cove has free camping. And others, I believe. It’s a pretty nice stretch of beach. The pictures below don’t show it, but it was a bit crowded here because there was some kind of boys’ camp going on at the other end of the beach.

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

Then I got itchy feet and drove to Vegas early.

LAS VEGAS

Parking lot behind the LINQ – (36.11835, -115.16655)

Street with parking near the Link/Ferris Wheel/Westin/Cromwell (36.11631,-115.16643)

I went out to Vegas 9 days before my friends would getting there. I’m not entirely sure why I went so early other than that I felt like moving on from where I was previously. I spent the first weekend at the strip and it was fun. I’m very used to going places and doing things by myself, but I’ve only been to the strip when it was with friends. This time, on my own, it wasn’t quite the same.

Camping on the Las Vegas Strip
This was a good place to park the van. It’s a big parking lot for the LINQ casino/hotel. It’s temporarily free until after they do some kind of construction project. There is a ton of security patrolling the lot and it’s well lit. You have to not make it obvious that you’re sleeping in a vehicle though or security will tell you not to.

After 3 or 4 days at the strip, I went and hung out around other parts of the city. Vegas isn’t all that nice. The UNLV Library is really really nice though. I go to a lot of city/county libraries, and sometimes there are too many bums there. Really stinky ones. At this library on UNLV campus, it was only students. Everyone’s clean. Everyone’s nice. The wifi is good. And it’s beautiful – I mean, just look at this place:

April 2017 Travels - UNLV Library

I think I’ll start hanging out around campuses more when I’m in cities.

My friends arrived the next weekend. While waiting for them in the airport cellphone lot, I did the following:

  • Ate dinner
  • Moved water from my big reserve jug to my smaller jugs that I normally use
  • Repaired my sandals (Sewed part of the velcro back on one)

Once my friends arrived, I drove them to their hotel on strip, and we hung out at the strip that night. The next day we went to their pool, walked around the strip, went to the pool again, and then went to Fremont Street to gamble a bit and walk around. I think we had more fun at Fremont street than on the strip. It’s smaller and sort of simpler. You don’t have to spend 10-15 minutes walking to go from one place to another like you often do on the strip. We also walked past what’s probably considered the normal end of the Fremont street area (on the east end) and continued. There are some fun weird/hipster type places there.

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
On Fremont Street. (Downtown Vegas)

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
My friend is a champion of making stupid faces

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Gold Digger

The last day they were there we went over to a thrift store (a Buffalo Exchange north of the strip – it is a good one), and then back to some casino where we had lunch. Then they headed back home, and I was ready to get out of that city.

Wow. When I put all the places I went in one month into one post, it sure looks like a lot.

PLANS FOR MAY

  • Go meet my brother and his girlfriend in Sedona
  • Go to Grand Canyon
  • Go through Northern Arizona and into Southern Utah

Exploring Arizona 4 – New Friends

New Friends

I went back to camp at the same area as two trips ago – the place where it rained for two days while I was there. This time, I had 6 days of absolutely perfect weather there. Also, I met some new friends.

I had been wanting to find a place near Phoenix to camp – somewhere still down in the desert but not all messed up with trash, noise and shooting. I asked on the CheapRVLiving.com forums and members there recommended a place just southwest of Phoenix. I was excited to go there.

My mom visited Phoenix for over a week, and I stayed in the city then. After she left the city and I was ready to go camping, it was hot in Phoenix, so I decided to go up in elevation rather than the hot desert spot.

Campsite:

New Friends

 

Mom’s Advice:

My mom said I should post more pictures of myself here. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, but never of myself. When I looked at my Instagram Feed after she asked, I noticed I hadn’t posted a picture of myself for many months. I suppose some pictures of me would make it more personal and more interesting. So, I took a few of myself on this trip. More coming in the future. My grandma once told me I could be a male model. She’s probably the most biased person in the world, and that was like 15 years ago.. Anyways,… here’s a start:

New Friends

New Friends

New Friends

The Weather

I don’t see how it could get any better:

  • ~75 degree highs
  • ~55 degree lows
  • Slight breeze
  • Sunny nearly all day every day

Bike Rides

I went for two bike rides along the Forest Service Road I was camped by. The road goes about 8 miles into the forest, eventually hitting a wilderness boundary and hiking trailhead. I rode out and back both times  and it was fucking amazing. I recorded some more footage with the GoPro. It really doesn’t do the views justice.

Someone recently asked if I record any different views while riding so I tried turning the camera around. It works pretty well, and now you get to look at my crotch a bunch 😛

 

New Friends from Instagram

I met a couple name Dan and Cindy and they camped with me for two days. Dan had sent me some messages on Instagram. Him and Cindy live in Tuscon and had a trip planned to go to Havasapai falls at the Grand Canyon. I was pretty much on their way, so they stopped to hang out a while.

You can find out a bit about them at:

I’m just going to post a picture of my journal entry from the day after we parted. My handwriting has really went downhill since I stopped working. I used to write a lot by hand at work, and since I quit, I’ve done very little. If I start posting journal tidbits like this regularly, that will give me a good reason to improve.

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting
The blurred part is nothing bad. It’s just something about them that I’m not sure whether they want shared publicly.

New Friends

 

New Friends

 

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting

 

New Friends

 

New Friends

Exploring Arizona 2 – Rained out near the Beeline

Rained out near the Beeline

For my second trip out of Phoenix, I wanted to find a place to camp in the desert – at lower elevation, and fairly close to Phoenix. As of February, it’s still pretty cold at middle elevations in Arizona. I like the low altitude desert near Phoenix. There are a lot of cool saguaro cacti. I wanted to find some nice places to camp in the desert, at low altitude, fairly close to Phoenix. I expected that might not be so easy….

The Party Zone

A big city like Phoenix has over 4 million people. Any city with 4 million residents will include a lot who like to go out into the nearby National Forests, and many of those will like shooting their guns, driving loud dirt-bikes, ATVs, and Side-By-Sides (those sort of off-road go carts with motorcycle engines that are super popular now), and/or taking a few cases of Bud Light and a mattress out to a camp site and leave everything behind minus the liquid beer. Some people seem to think a National Forest is some kind of black hole where no one else goes and where the trash they leave behind doesn’t matter and won’t be seen by anyone else because surely no one else goes to such a remote place 20 miles from the city, right? Ok, I don’t like to judge other peoples’ ways of enjoying nature, but I definitely judge the litterers.

With surely a large number of people as decribed above existing in any city, many National forest areas within 40 miles of the city are likely to have a some or a lot of these folks. I’ll call this ring around a city the “party zone”. This makes finding a nice desert area to camp challenging because the National Forest areas north of Phoenix all seem to increase in altitude the further north you go. So by the time I get out of the range of the shooters, partiers, and ATVers, I’m up at 4,500 feet. Around 3,500 feet, the plants change from cacti to shrubs that are thorny and also really thick in some spots.

The Plan:

I decided to go out along Highway 87 this time, which is known as the Beeline. I took a look on Google Maps and found some areas that looked like they may work. There are quite a few roads going off from the Beeline, and a quick look on the satellite view** showed a lot of potential campsites.

** The “satellite” views on maps are shot from airplanes

Strike One

The first place I went to, shown as “A” on the map below. Once I got there, it was clearly a serious OHV area (there were signs). So I went back to the highway and continued north, looking for other roads.

Rained out near the Beeline

Strike Two

The second place I went, shown as “B” on the map below, has a bunch of places people could camp. People have done a lot of shooting there, so some parts are littered with casings, empty shotgun shells, broken glass, and the occasional old TV or computer monitor that’s been shot to pieces. It was also really close to the highway, and right under a busy flight path.

Rained out near the Beeline

I arrived in late afternoon and spent the night there. A couple guys drove into the area together and hung out for a while. One of them is from Phoenix and knew a lot about rocks and the area. The other has a house in Hawaii. He built a really small home out in the back yard, and lived in that while renting out the main house. Now he’s bought a truck and camper, and is in the process of renting out the small house to a friend for while he drives around the continental US in his truck camper for the next year or so.  He’s in love with the friend who is renting his small house. They are good friends and she just wants to be friends. He said “we’re perfect together, soulmates, she just doesn’t know it” a two or three times.

He has plans with a string of different women to come join him at times. In one case of plans overlapping, he’s going to have two women joining him at the same time at his condo that he bought on a whim while in a ski town in Utah. It was interesting talking with a guy who really really wants a travel companion. He is certain he’ll feel unsatisfied traveling by himself. In my case, I don’t mind traveling alone. There are many things I’m missing out on by not having another person along, but there are also many ways that traveling alone is easier and simpler. I do wonder a little bit whether the difference in my preferences and this guy’s are entirely personality based, or how much of it is me being more content with simpler things.

Strike Three

I got tired of hearing the traffic and airplanes, so the next morning I headed further north. I got up to higher elevation, and out of the “party zone”, and found a nice spot (in area C on the map).  It was up at about 4,500 feet.  I had a wonderful view out the windows. The spot was pretty close to the highway but with enough elevation difference and a big hill in-between to block all the noise. I did have a direct line of sight to cell towers across the highway, so I had a nice data connection.

Rained out near the Beeline

The first day there, the weather was wonderful. I went for an exploratory hike down the road to see what the road is like and if there were other good campsites further back.

Rained out near the Beeline

Rained out near the Beeline

I’d checked the weather before leaving Phoenix and saw two rainy days in the forecast. I looked closer while camped up in area C, and saw the forecast was non stop rain for 48 hours. Uh oh. I figured I’d just stay put through the rain and then enjoy  a couple nice days after before heading back down to the city.

Once it started raining, the clouds were thick.  They were also low and I was literally in them. This meant I didn’t have power for charging my computer or whatever else. I’ve now gotten in the good habit of letting only my fridge and MIFI device charge as needed, and only charging or using other devices when the sun is providing enough power for them on top of however much the battery can take at that moment. This way, the battery is always getting as much as is possible.

So… the first day, I read a book. This may be the first day in my life that I read all of a normal-sized book in one day. It was good. It’s called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. As the title suggest, it’s about how to make money by entrepreneurial means, but it’s written as a novel in the first person – from the perspective of you being the main character. It’s a really good book.

It rained almost every minute of the day. And night.

Rain itself doesn’t bother me much. But it was also about 40 degrees, and I don’t like just sitting around in the van when it’s also cold. The second morning of rain, I got impatient. I’d already read an entire book, now what the hell am I supposed to do? :-P.

The road up to my campsite was very nice. Most of it was a nice well graded gravel road. The spot I was camped in was dirt, and now really muddy, and slightly uphill to get back on the road. Then the road was all downhill. I figured if I could get back on the road I could probably make it all the way down.

The mud had gotten saturated a few inches deep. It was really slippery. I made it out though. I started down the road. There had been a big camper in a spot about 1/8th mile before mine. I saw they had left, and saw tracks in the road that were probably theirs from leaving the previous afternoon or evening. About another 1/8th mile down, I got to a reeeeaaally soft and muddy spot. The trailer had made it down through this, and it looked like about 3 or 4 vehicles had been in it and tore up the road a bit.

Rained out near the Beeline
This is “the bad part”, looking uphill

I got through that part, but just barely. I almost inched off into a small ditch, which would’ve been an annoyance rather than a problem, as I could’ve just waited there in the ditch for it to dry and then easily driven out, but, the van would’ve been at an annoying angle. My van was sinking into the mud quite a lot. The mud was really soft, and my van is fairly heavy and the tires aren’t especially wide. I’d traveled up that section of road a couple days ago and it was flat and smooth. Now it was getting all torn up and I felt bad about doing some of it. I decided that I’d rather stop and wait it out rather than tear up any more parts of the road, so I went just far enough past that bad spot to get to where the road was wide enough and flat enough to the side for me to just stop right there on the road with plenty of space for others to drive by.

Rained out near the Beeline
Where I stoped to wait it out. Really, not a bad place at all to be ~stuck waiting

Two other vehicles did drive by, coming up the hill. Both of them went a bit into the bad section but turned back right away. I got out and walked around a couple times, but spent most of the day in the van.

The  next morning, the rain stopped. And the sun was shining about half the time. The clouds slowly cleared out.

Rained out near the Beeline

I waited until after noon. Then I walked the road all the way to where it’s paved, and it wasn’t bad.In the afternoon, after walking the road,  I drove the rest of the way down and headed back to the city. I probably could’ve driven the rest instead of waiting. Turns out the only tricky spot was the turn right in front of where I’d parked. It was banked inward pretty heavily, and past the outside edge of the road is steep downhill. When I watched one of the vehicles that came up and turned back, they did a pretty aggressive 4 wheel powerslide to make it through the turn to without sliding down the banking. I didn’t want to attempt something like that.

I suppose I should’ve checked the weather a closer before heading up. If I’d seen exactly how much it was going to rain, I probably wouldn’t have went up there. But I saw that the rain would only last two days, and that it wouldn’t be snowing or freezing, and I was camped maybe a mile’s walk from the highway, so there was not really any safety risk of being stranded up there too long or in too bad of conditions.

I decided I’d definitely do more research on lower desert areas before heading out next time, so I’d have much less chance of being up in the cold rain.

All-in-all, a “rained out” trip didn’t turn out so bad. I had two and a half days of really nice weather, a nice hike, read a really good book, and found a nice campsite are mid elevation easily accessed from the highway.

Exploring Arizona 1 – Apache Trail and Roosevelt Lake

As I mentioned in my post about test trips, I drove the Apache Trail a couple times when I used to visit Arizona for work.  I’ll quote myself to share a relevant part of that post:

About two years passed between my first test trip in California and quitting my job to travel full time. Over those two years I imagined, many hundreds of times, being free of work and moseying around North America. I imagined being able to settle in to camp for a week or more at a time. I imagined sitting around relaxing, reading, writing, hiking, watching the stars, and so on. In many of these daydreams, I was in Arizona. I was out near Sedona. And, most common of all, I was along the Salt River.

There are more beautiful places for sure. And there are countless places as nice as along the Salt River. But because I had been here on a test trip and because of how I felt while driving the Apache Trail, those feelings had me thinking back to it, and looking forward to it.

Arizona – Excursions from Phoenix

At the end of 2016, I’d just crossed the border from California to Arizona. I spent a couple weeks near the border, by Ehrenberg and Quartzsite, and attended the RTR, where I did a fun little “Rigs of the RTR” photography project.

After the RTR, I came to Phoenix. I had decided to make Phoenix my home base for the rest of winter.  I’ll to spend about 10 weeks in and near the city. I expect to spend half the time inside the city, and half on excursions of about a week each. Most of these will be within 50-80 miles of Phoenix.  As the weather warms up in the spring, I’ll go further north and stop coming back to Phoenix.

Ok… on to trip 1:

Apache Trail

My first excursion, as you’ve likely guessed – included driving this beautiful stretch of gravel and dirt. The Apache Trail is a 40 mile stretch of Highway 88 from Apache Junction to the dam at Roosevelt Lake. The southern half is paved, and the northern half is a well-maintained gravel road.

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

There are some tall tales about this area. When I told my Grandma who lives in Phoenix that I’d be going on camping trips, she said “ohhhhhhhhh, don’t go out in the Superstition Mountains!”. The Apache Trail passes through them. The tales are mostly centered around gold mines, buried treasures of which old mysterious maps give vague directions, and murders of miners, treasure hunters, and some of the original teasure owners. The biggest of these tales is about the “Lost Dutchman’s Mine”. This is the most talked about and most searched for lost mine in North America. There are over 100 books and maps about the mine. Adventurous go-getters have been searching for the mine for over 120 years, with as many as 8,000 people searching in some years. Many have died while doing so.

There are numerous fascinating stories and tales all wound together. Some of them are definitely fact. Some are fantasies and deception.

A few excerpts:

From Wikipedia:

The legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine centers around the Superstition Mountains. According to the legend, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz discovered a mother lode of gold in the Superstition Wilderness and revealed its location on his deathbed in Phoenix in 1891 to Julia Thomas, a boarding-house owner who had taken care of him for many years. Several mines have been claimed to be the actual mine that Waltz discovered, but none of those claims have been verified

 

But – a warning – if you’re searching for treasure out here, you might wander into Hell:

Some Apaches believe that the hole leading down into the lower world, or hell, is located in the Superstition Mountains. Winds blowing from the hole is supposed to be the cause of severe dust storms in the metropolitan region

 

From a website about Tortilla Flat (a little outpost of a town along the Apache Trail)

Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer in America in the early 1500’s. During an expedition to Florida, he was shipwrecked on a Texas island in 1528. There he was enslaved by the Indians. He escaped and made his way into the Southwest and eventually into Mexico by 1536. His wanderings brought him in contact with the Pueblo Indians, and his later reports in Mexico gave rise to the legends of the Seven Cities of Cibola, — or the Cities of Gold. These legends were the catalyst for bring Spanish explorers and prospectors into the Arizona territory. As part of the Coronado expedition into Arizona for the Seven Cities of Cibola, Marcos de Niza traveled westward along the Gila River as far as what is now the Phoenix metropolitan area. He may have been the first Spaniard to see the Superstition Mountains.

What has all this to do with Tortilla Flat, you ask? Because of it’s location, Tortilla Flat, even presently, is affected by the search for gold in the Superstitions. Each Spanish expedition inspired other expeditions looking for the vast wealth in gold. In the late 1600’s through the Mid- 1700’s, Jesuits priests were located throughout the Southwest. Allegedly, the Jesuits had amassed a fortune in gold and didn’t want to share it with the King of Spain. The king, convinced of treachery, ordered the deportation of all Jesuits in 1767. However, before their departure, they supposedly hid their treasure in various places throughout Southwest and according to legend, the Superstition Mountain region was one of these hidden places.

In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain, and an influx of Mexican prospectors poured into the Superstition Mountain region. Don Miguel Peralta was a wealthy landowner and miner from northern Mexico. Reportedly, his expeditions recovered immense quantities of gold from the Superstitions in 1847 and 1848. All but one member of the expedition was killed in a battle with the Apaches at a site commemorated as Massacre Grounds, located at the west end of the mountains.

If this sounds interesting, here are some links to get you started:

 

My Searching Expedition

I was on a search alright. But not for gold. I was searching for a perfect campsite along the Apache Trail. For the campsite I’ve daydreamed of hundreds of times. I did little research, figuring I’d go by memory and probably just find the right spots.

Like the treasure hunters, I came up short. But I didn’t die! There aren’t many nice camping spots along the road. A couple are right near the bottom of the big cliff that you drive down if you’re traveling northwards. They’re down at the bottom of this picture:

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

Ok.. look at the front of the van up by the windshield. Then track just a bit to the right. See that little branch off from the road with a white and red speck? That speck was a pickup with a camper and his hood up – a sign that he was settled in camping – putting the hood up is a method to try to prevent rats from nesting in the engine bay. Further north on the road, maybe 100 meters, is another good camping spot that had a car in it as I passed. They were likely out hiking or treasure hunting. Or maybe down in hell.

These two spots are the best free campsites along the Apache trail. That’s just according to my opinion right now, which is based on limited understanding of the area. Next time I drive this road going north, if one of these spots are open, I’m definitely stopping there.

This is a shot of the road as it continues down:

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

See how the road sort of disappears in the distance, and turns back around? There’s something cool down there right at the horseshoe turn:

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

Did people used to live in that cave/overhang? It would be a decent spot, with that river right below.

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail
This place calls out for me to hike back along the river. Next time I drive the Apache Trail, I’m going to.

I continued along, hoping to find a spot on or overlooking the salt river. Further north, on the last few miles before the dam, the road parallels the river pretty closely. I’d seen campsites during my test trips when I was just passing through this road and daydreaming. Now that I was looking to actually stop and camp, what I found is:

  • The campsites off the west side of the road – towards the river, are all sites where you have to pay (I don’t stay at those)
  • There are a few roads going east off of 88. Everything on the east side of 88 is all just normal (free) dispersed camping. The one I explored wasn’t so great. Lots of hill walls would block the sun this time of year (a problem for my solar electrical system), and there weren’t any good views for as far as I walked up it.
  • There are spots right along the road where you could stop and camp. Some of them have nice views. There’s a lot of traffic on this road though

I made it all the way to the dam without finding a spot that felt right. So I continued up past the dam and went to the Tonto Basin Ranger Distric Office. It’s a really nice visitor’s center, as nice as most National Parks have. I got some information and a bunch of free maps/papers, and headed over to the only free campsite along the lake (Bachelor’s cove). I stayed there for a few days, and then moved up to a Forest Service road that climbs the hills overlooking the lake. I stayed up there for a few more days.

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail
My campsite for the second half of the week. My van is one of the specks down towards the lake. (I was still about a half mile from the lake)

I went on a few bike rides and hikes. My first trip up the road I camped on was on my bike. But past a certain point the road is so steep that I had to get off and walk a lot of. Later, I hiked all the way up. I also went on a bike ride over to and back down the Apache Trail. I remembered to take my GoPro! You may want to watch it at 2x speed to make it less boring.

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail
Some parts are a lot steeper than they appear here

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail
Lunch at the top of my hike: a sardine sandwich and an apple.

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail
Those mountains you keep seeing in the background are the “Four Peaks”. They’re the highest mountains in this small area, at about 7,500 ft. (Roosevelt Lake is 2,000ft)

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

Bonus – Ever wondered what’s inside a cactus?

I had assumed it was all just a wet mass. Sort of like a melon. Well, no. Inside some cacti are a system of sticks/trunks/branches:

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

 

Exploring Arizona - Apache Trail

 

 

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

I spent six weeks in San Diego in late 2016. As I mentioned in a previous post, I met few new people and most of my social interactions were with people I already knew. One was an old friend of a friend. Another was a guy I only knew from the internet before. Turns out, him and his wife are the most interesting people in San Diego. It’s kind of funny. I only really met about 10 people around San Diego. And most of them are really interesting. Yeah, It’s absurd to declare I know the most interesting people in San Diego when I only know 10 of them. But hey, some “how to blog” thing I read said to make compelling titles. And I may still be right anyways. I’ll tell you about a good deal of those 10 people here.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

Craig – the Video Guy

Craig is an old friend of some of my other close friends. We never lived in the same city but we saw each other once or twice a year for many years. He’s a videographer and has had a number of interesting jobs in the field. He also made this short film called A Server Life a few years ago which you particularly enjoy if you’ve worked in the service industry. Or if you prefer the more real/natural world, here’s this video he recorded of when a huge whale carcass washed up on the coast near where he lives.

His current day job is recording what I understand to be court depositions. He gets to listen in on witness accounts of what happened in a variety of cases. A pervious job was a private eye. Yeah, a private detective. Like the guys who tail somebody recording their whereabouts and filming them. He had some really funny stories from that. One was about a mentally unstable and violent guy he was supposed to follow. He asked the company he got worked for some questions to get a better idea what he was getting into  (like, “hey, is this guy going to try to kill me if he notices me?”) and if I can remember right, they just said “ahhh, I don’t know..  just go ahead and do it, you’ll probably be fine”

Because of the subject’s mental instability, he was already super paranoid about being followed and monitored (even before Craig started monitoring him). He’d do crazy stuff like leave his house at 5am to go to a 10am doctor’s appointment that’s only a 15 minute drive away. So of course, since he was so paranoid about it, the guy eventually noticed Craig monitoring him. Craig survived though.

When I got to town, Craig said “Let’s meet and [have a drink], I want to talk business”. That “business” was making a video about me living in the van. So we spent a few days working on that, shooting various clips of driving the van, doing stuff inside it, and some interview parts with me talking. I felt like I was being way too boring, so I hope he’ll be able to make me and the video look cool with editing magic.

San Diego
We shot a bit of video here

Funny moments with Craig – free stuff just appearing!

On our first day out shooting, we went to a little area of dirt overlooking a beach and sort of a swamp.  While Craig was setting up his camera and the shots, I walked around to move trash that was probably in the shots. One of those trash Items happened to be a 6 pack of tall beer cans, with four unopened cans remaining.  The cans were undamaged so I took the 6-pack over to Craig to see if he wanted it. He did, and said that it’s a fancy beer. $15 for a 6 pack.

The third location we went to was near a Library. We found a parking spot in the Library and started walking over. As we walked past the front entrance, there was a rack of books and magazines with a “free” sign on it. One book stood out to me right away. It was about serial killers. We had just been discussing them last night because Craig’s girlfriend has a sort of fascination with them. So I grabbed that book to give to her. We took another book, and about 10 magazines that my Craig likes. Score!

The Most Interesting People in San Diego
One of the Encinitas beaches. We shot a some video here

Funny Moments with Craig – Trash Endemic of the Rich

Ok, this one’s not exactly funny. One evening we did some shooting near the beach pictures above. While driving back towards my Craig’s house, we went down a road with beachfront houses. Craig noticed some trash cans out on the street and said “oh yeah, this street is a dumpster diving goldmine”. He listed a number of nice things he’s found here left out for trash by their owners. Furniture, electronics, etc. After passing 10 or so houses, a trend was apparent. These people throw a lot away. Every house had multiple cans out. Some had SIX or SEVEN! I thought maybe this trash pickup is infrequent.  Surely, with this much trash, it must only be collected once a month. Or every other week? I asked Craig. He said it’s picked up twice per week. TWICE PER WEEK!

By my quick calculations, these households are throwing away somewhere between one and four THOUSAND pounds per month.

Craig’s cousin – Angela – The Hiker

Craig’s cousin is cool. He made about her hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. We went on a couple hikes with her.

We went on a short hike to “Mushroom Caves” one day:

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

We snaked through some really narrow paths. Extra narrow, at one point, because we took a wrong turn. The picture below is shot from inside the “Mushroom Cave”. I don’t know whether the entire cave was carved out, or if some/most of it was natural. Now there’s all kinds of stuff people have carved into it. The carvings are pretty ugly, but someone did at least carve out some nice seats in there.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

 

Jared – The Podcast Guy

I was out with Craig one night. We met some of his friends at a bar to hang out and watch UFC fights. While there, Craig told a guy  (Jared) about me being retired, living in the van, and traveling. Earlier, I’d overheard Jared telling another guy about a project he was working on. Some stuff about how people don’t go after their dreams because they let their fear of failure get in the way. Jared talked to me a bit and asked me if I’d be on his podcast. Sure, what the hell. I’m keeping this brief because I’ll likely make a full blog post about it. Hint: there’s already a link the podcast near the bottom of my front page. 

 

Rich and Amanda – The Most Interesting People in San Diego

I knew Rich from a forum on the Internet. This was the first time we met in person. Rich and his Wife Amanda met me for tea/coffee in Balboa Park – in the same area pictured below. They brought a thermos with hot water, cups, etc. We had some great discussion. I showed them the van. Rich showed me the building they manage, which has a secret lair. Seriously.

The Most Interesting People in San Diego
(I started building this website while in San Diego)

Rich and his wife have designed an interesting life. Starting 20 or so years ago, they saved up some money, quit their jobs and went on a HUGE adventure. Then they came back to San Diego, got new jobs, and saved up again. Then, another HUGE adventure. And again. They take partial retirements every few years. And they’re also building up for a full retirement later.

Their travels and adventures are extensive. Their first trip, essentially their honeymoon, was taking a VW Bus (a camper), south into Mexico. And further south through Central America. And all the way to the southern tip of South America. Then back up through Brazil. Then they shipped the Bus over to Africa or Europe and continued! They wrote a book about this big first trip. If you like this kind of travel, or big adventures shared by daring, optimistic, and funny people, read it. I promise you’ll like it.

That was just their first trip. They also went bicycle touring through Southeast Asia, rode a motorcycle through India, went to Mt. Everest, and more! Their lives are so  inspiring that an insurance company made a commercial about them:

(After their commercial, another commercial with a different guy starts at1:50. I was confused by that the first time I watched it)

It felt like a privilege talking to a guy who has spent much of his life doing awesome things and learning about life and people instead of learning about TPS reports. He has friends who are super rich, and friends from Tijuana who are probably quite poor.  He is really really good at identifying interesting people, and at getting them (and normal people) to tell him their interesting stories. He asks them another question as soon as they finish answering the last, and doesn’t leave pauses where the conversation can lull or stop. And is very interested in the person / their story. 

Amanda grew up in Mexico. She came across the border every day to go to College in San Diego. Crossing the boarder into the U.S. is crazy. There’s a ton of traffic and it can take hours to get through. She waited in that line every day to go to school. You have to really want something to be willing to do that.

Their book tells about a discussion they had one evening. (forgive my poor telling of this from memory, It’s told much better in the book).  They were both having a “there’s got to be more to life than this” realization. They sort of decided to do something adventurous but didn’t have any clear decisions made. The next day Amanda came home from work with a stack of papers. She started rattling off things. Ok, we’re gonna need [this] and we’re gonna need [that], and it will probably take about [this many] weeks to get [such and such]. Rich was like “huh? whoah. what? What’s all this?”. And she says. “Mexico. We need to go to Mexico! On an adventure. I started planning today.”

Pretty soon they’d saved up money, quit their jobs, outfitted a Volkswagen with clothes food, and a bunch of random spare parts. They crossed the border to kick off a honeymoon that lasted years.

Activities

I went along with Rich to a swap meet. I bought three pairs of really nice wool socks for $2.00,  and some hiking pants for a few dollars. Rich bought about 16 things. One of his hobbies is buying outdoor gear cheaply at places like this (places where the goods are just one short step away from a landfill) and selling them to people who will make good use of them. The flow of goods is interesting:

  • People donate to Goodwill, and companies offload excess products.
  • Goodwill takes excess stuff to sell in lots in Mexico
  • Those Mexicans come back across the border to sell that stuff at the swap meets
  • Rich buys the good outdoor gear from them
  • He knows many of them. They set aside stuff for him because he pays a little extra
  • Rich re-sells the stuff, mostly on Ebay, to people who are likely to make good use of it.

(There are other material sources than Goodwill. Like garage sales where at the end the seller just wants everything gone. And companies that get rid of excess inventory (new/unused items))

We went for three bike rides together. The first one, we rode to and took the ferry to Coronado Island. Coronado is a small island just barely off the coast. About half the island is used by the military. The other half is nice houses and fancy places. We worked out at a park that had the appropriate structures. The second bike ride we went on was in Balboa park on some mountain bike single track. It’s good riding in there. I crashed! And got a flat. And another flat later. oh, man! Our third ride was over to Mission Bay Park. There was a steep, long hill on the way back. Rich lead up the hill and went fast. I could just barely keep up. At a couple points, I didn’t think I’d be able to hang on with him. But I did, and as we got to the crest of the hill, I rode up alongside him and said “That’s a nice hill. Good warm up. Can we go back down and come up again, and go fast this time?” 😀

The Most Interesting People in San Diego

 

San Diego: Notes on the City

San Diego

I was in and near San Diego from November 5th to December 21st. Here are some observations and thoughts on the city. 

Overall – About the city 

San Diego is a cool city. It’s nice because it’s not so big and spread out. The farthest I’d drive at once was about ten miles. The weather there is amazing. Balboa park is wonderful; it’s a big park in the middle of the city with nice plants, trails, old buildings, museums, and a cool ‘town square’ area in the middle.  The Libraries I went to in S.D. sucked. They were small and had too many smelly people.

I spent a lot of time in Encinitas because my friend lives there. Encinitas is also wonderful. It’s small, so you don’t have to drive much. Parking is easy. The Encinitas library is awesome. It’s probably the nicest Library I’ve ever been to.

The People

I think I had strange timing because I was there right after the election. Dating went really poorly.  Most of the time I spent interacting with other people was with those I already knew before getting here.

Beaches

San Diego

Coronado: Nice beaches. Not many people when I was there. Reminded me of the Baywatch beach (which is very foggy in my memory, so I’m not sure the comparison is accurate). Fun fact I learned from a Coronado beach insider: one time a lifeguard, while driving one of those Lifeguard trucks on the beach, put the truck in reverse to back up and ran over someone. After that, reverse was not allowed.

Ocean Beach – This area is nice. It’s also strange.  In the residential parts, the people seem really cool. There are many around my age. And younger people. They seem to have their shit together. And they’re out and about – walking around a lot.  In the commercial area (the streets near the beach with restaurants and stores) there was sort of a douchebag, almost white trash vibe on the weekend. On the beach there were a lot of surfers, as usual. And families, and groups of friends, as usual. But the defining Ocean Beach folks were sort of crusty looking vagrants/vagabonds/runaways. The kind of of folks who also live in vans, but there are 6 people in one van. One of them reads a book while the rest seem to just sit around and do nothing all day. A friend explained to me that Interstate 8 ends in Ocean Beach, so hitchhikers (and also ‘runaways’) who were traveling along I-10 and I-8 just end up there because it’s literally the end of the road.

San Diego

I spent thanksgiving parked in this nice little lot right by the beach.

San Diego

Ocean Beach has a really long pier.  People surf right by the pier so you can walk out on it to watch and take pictures.

San Diego

San Diego

Blacks beach  It’s a ‘Clothing optional’ beach. There were 80% old leathery guys with dark orange tanned dicks, and 20% students from the nearby University of California San Diego (most of them were clothed)

San Diego

Getting down to Black’s Beach is a bit of a hike. I like that. Only people who really want to are going down there.

Encinitas Beaches These were nice too. The thing is, tons of the beaches around here are nice. I hung out here a few days:

San Diego

San Diego Neighborhoods

Balboa Park: It’s a big park in the middle of the city. Seems old. Has cool buildings and plants and trails. Lots of museums but they are not free. Good single track biking/running trails.

Hillcrest: It’s the “gay neighborhood”. Someone told me that it is a bit less gay than before. His reasoning was that maybe since gay marriage became nationally legal, gay folks feel more accepted by society and less of a reason to live together in a specific ‘gay’ community. Anyways, while I was walking around one day, I saw a building under construction.

San Diego

 

Ok. Nothing special. As they often do, the company making the building had a sign on it advertising themselves. Well, this company has a pretty interesting sign:

San Diego

You know what else is special about Hillcreast? The Goodwill store! It’s a small store. It’s a Boutique Goodwill. Seriously.  It’s an absolute goldmine for small swimsuits. I had been looking for a small swimsuit like this for years:

1950s-mens-swim-shorts-ad

(but not specifically for a reversable one.. just one that fits that way)

Granted, I wasn’t looking very hard. A couple times when I was traveling for work and had an afternoon to kill, I went to try to buy swimsuit. But all I could find are big ones. I started seeing some guys this summer in small ones. I’d usually go ask them where they got it. The answer was usually some fancy boutique store that has mostly gay customers. And the little swimsuit cost $70. Well, I didn’t want one that bad.

I was walking to the Grocery store in Hillcrest and saw a Goodwill. I went in thinking I might find a T shirt or two. But I found a entire rack full of little gay type swimsuits. New ones with tags. For $7 a piece. I found a good one. YEEEEAH BUDDY!

San Diego

Other Neighborhoods: A lot of the other neighborhoods I spent time in were pretty similar. I mean ons north of Balboa Park. North Park. Northern Heights. University Heights. Nice places, all with a strip of businesses on sort of a “main street”.  One thing I noticed is that there seemed to be fewer parks than in other cities. Maybe that’s because of the vicinity to Balboa Park?

I could see myself spending a month at a time in San Diego. Or more. It’s not a ideal as Santa Barbara. But the people in San Diego are ‘better’. In the next post, I need to talk about some of them – because I met the most interesting people in San Diego.