Thursday, November 28, 2019

Potentially Extra Grateful

Waxing Crescent Moon

I would be extremely extra grateful if you spent some of your hard-earned holiday gift moolah treating your friends or family members to one or both of my books. It's SOOO simple!

P.S. I stole this picture from I-can't-remember-which-one of my siblings from their trip to South Africa this year. I also forgot the warthog's real name, so I made one up. It's a real warthog, though.

Peace, Love, and Small, Very Small Business,

Monday, November 18, 2019

Spugly By The Numbers

Waning Gibbous Moon

Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter certainly measured up to its rigorous task on my recent spin around the Southwest Divided States of America. For the uninformed, Spugly is a 1987 Mazda B2200 long bed pickup truck with a 4 liter engine and a plywood bed liner that covers up gaping rusted out holes in the long, but sadly incomplete bed. Spugly spent its first twenty-six years in Marina, CA, a pleasant little beach town with lots of corrosive salt water fog. Hence the holes.

Anyway, its initial owner was a gardener who puttered around locally until he became ill. For ten years, Spugly sat idle in front of the gardener's home. When I bought it in 2013, it only had been driven 93,000 miles. So really, despite the rust, it was a good deal for $1,500.

By the way, you will note that although Spugly has a name, it is a truck, not a girl or a boy or any sort of imaginative combination on the broad spectrum of twenty-first century gender identities. It is a very good little truck of which I am fond. But it is an it. Any type of personality or character is just  projected or assigned because life should be at least a little bit fun, IMHO. If this movie wasn't at least a little bit fun, it would be just plain ridiculous.

Spugly was named in the parking lot of the Windmill Market by Cud'n Mindy shortly after I bought it. I remarked that I had recently bought this spectacularly ugly vehicle and instantly, Cud'n Mindy blurted "Spugly!" That woman is a genius.

On the aforementioned road trip, Spugly logged 4,386 miles on 144.2 gallons of gasoline (which was alarmingly cheaper in Uncalifornia than here at home - by a lot - like $1.50 per gallon cheaper most places) for an average of 30.4 miles per gallon. That is outstanding if you ask me, Or even if you don't, it is still outstanding. It burned only one quart of oil on the way to Tejas. I stopped at Lube N Go in El Paso for an oil change and new oil filter as I was leaving. From there all the way to San Juan Bautista, it hummed and purred and didn't burn any oil at all. Way cool. Spugliferous.

Spugly has a bench seat, much more comfortable than bucket seats, no air conditioning, no power steering, no electric windows or mirrors, no radio, no cruise control - none of that stupid stuff that you do not need and have to pay oodles of bucks to fix when it inevitably breaks. Some day I will shell out the money to replace the multi-chipped windshield which is probably one pea-sized gravel shot away from shattering in little bits right in my lap. But no big hurry on that.

The gray, Sun-degraded, plastic front bumpers are held on by an array of black zip ties, adding immensely to Spugly's sleek, classy lines when viewed from the silly rear view camera in your $40,000 compact sport utility vehicle. I mean, what did we ever do without those things?. I should probably get new license plates next time I register it, though. They are both so battered and rusty that the cops are bound to stop me sooner or later. Yes, I am going to get "SPUGLY" plates for certain. Eat your heart out.

Peace, Love, and Transportation,

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Get Back

Waning Gibbous Moon

There are much worse ways to finish a trip than a walk on the beach and breakfast with a dear, beautiful friend. My heart swims with the dolphins.

Peace, Love, and Happiness,

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Waning Gibbous Moon

People have been pulling over and sleeping in their vehicles for as long as there have been vehicles. Only recently have people called it "boondocking." Also recently, they have tricked out their vans with solar panels, tweeted about it like it's a wild adventure, and YouTubed the whole thing with how-to DIY instructions using Dad's tools and Mom's sewing machine (and blogged about it, too).

Last night I may or may not have parked Spugly in a sandy turnout/cul de sac halfway between I-10 and the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. I may or may not have cowboy camped under the stars on my truckbed on federal land without paying a single red cent.

If I did, and maybe I didn't, it wasn't that wild. I mean there weren't any bears or pumas out there. Rattlesnakes can't shimmy up truck fenders and seek out sleeping campers, if there even was a camper in a pickup, even if it was me. So big deal if I did, big deal if I didn't, okay? I definitely didn't "boondock." You couldn't even pay me to say I did that.

I did, however, drive through Joshua Tree this morning and stop a few times to stretch my legs. My favorite was the Cholla Gardens exhibit, which was way better than the ocotillo patch. The ocotillo patch was nearly bald. The Cholla Gardens were flourishing. I followed the National Park's posted advice and did not touch the cholla, duh.

Then came the less than riveting drive between 29 Palms and Agua Dulce. There was one decent mural, one gazebo, and zero bike racks.

Just outside Agua Dulce, though, is the fantastic Vasquez Rocks County Park (Los Angeles County). Not only does the Pacific Crest Trail run right through the park (and through the town), but the rocks are incredible and so are the petroglyphs.

The park was named after Tiburcio Vasquez, who was either a murdering thief or a misunderstood Robin-Hood-like martyr in the 1800's, depending on who you ask. One thing for certain is his park never ceases to impress.

Arriving in Ventura in time for sundown was a delicious treat and traffic along the beach into Santa Barbara was surprisingly light. This day, this next to last day of a diverse and fun month-long trip, was appropriately diverse and fun in itself. Should I "boondock" in Santa Babylon tonight? There's a different term for it here. I think it's called "trespassing" or "vagrancy" or something like that.

Lucky for me, the Earl of Montecito fed me tacos and Myra the Wonderdog loaned me her sofa for the night. This is called "friendship" or "kindness" for which I am truly grateful.

Peace, Love, and Couchdocking,

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Waning Gibbous Moon

You know that expression"the crack of dawn?" Well, here it is.

I got up extra early this morning to meet my friends Lisa Smith and Nancy Reid for a sunrise walk on the East Wetlands Trail near the Colorado River in Yuma, AZ. If you have not read the most recent edition of Lisa and Nancy's outstanding Parks and Travel Magazine, be sure to click here.

The first walk was so wonderful that we decided to take a second walk on the West Wetlands Trail so I could see the river up close. There were cranes, mockingbirds, and ducks and even beavers! I am too slow on the draw with my camera phone to produce any wildlife shots. I leave that to the pros like Lisa. I make do with stuff that sits still long enough for me to take a deep breath and squeeze the trigger.

This dazzling shot is a historic bridge from an old piece of U.S. 80, the southern tier coast to coast highway built in 1928. Most of the highway west of Dallas, TX has been removed or paved over by Interstate freeways, particularly I-10 and I-8, but lots of good memories remain.

The wetlands trails feature both paved bike paths and sandy footpaths, plus an elaborate playground and educational exhibits. Yumans and yuccas should be proud.

By mid-morning, the air temperature had begun to rise noticeably so we retreated to The Landing, a superior breakfast establishment that is part of the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel. I feasted myself into a coffee-and-eggs stupor, after which I rallied for today's journey across the Colorado River into California.

What a great day! The past few weeks in Uncalifornia have been pretty smooth. I didn't get to see everybody and every place I intended to visit, but I came pretty close. And the mini-adventures into close contact with the natural world were refreshing.

If Spugly can hang in there for a few more days, I will be home in San Juan Bautista by Friday.

Peace, Love, and More to Come,

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Yaqui Ridge Is All You Need

Waxing Gibbous Moon

Today I completed a piece of something that I tried to start way back in February. I horsed Spugly around the hairpin turns on the gravel road up to Montezuma Pass, AZ. Then I hiked to the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail (AZT) at the U.S./Mexico border and back. The last mile down switchbacks along Yaqui Ridge bothered my knee, but coming back up was much better.

For northbound hikers of the AZT, this is counterintuitive. hike from Mexico to Utah on this trail, I have to go south first? Well, yes, actually that is true. No road goes to the southern end, so hiking down from Montezuma Pass is required.

Last February, due to "inclement" weather (the snow and ice did not look anything like anyone ever named Clement), I started the trail in Patagonia, the first trail town north of Montezuma Pass. Then I promptly slipped on ice after about 14 miles and bam, my trip was over. Almost eight months later, I am still having trouble with the knee I jammed that day. But it held up for a couple of hours today, so I'm happy. The long views were terrific.

I hung out at the border for a little while to soak in the scenery. No hordes, zero hordes, not even one solitary horde of people of any sort from el otro lado stampeded over, under, around, or through the silly barbed wire fence.

The only folks I saw at the terminus were two young people who hailed from Indiana. We had a nice conversation about how wonderful the trail systems are in their home state, especially the trail called the Cardinal Greenway. But of course you know all about Indiana trails because you have read Palomino Nation: My 2016 Crazyass Walk Across America, right? Of course you did.

My feet and toes are barking like a kennel full of p.o.ed Chihuahuas after all that up and down on  the rockstrewn trail. But other than that, Yaqui Ridge was fun and both sides of the barbed wire are totally beautiful. It was as though the barbed wire wasn't there at all.

Peace, Love, and Love Some More,

Saturday, November 9, 2019


Waxing Gibbous Moon

Can somebody please explain to me how, just six short years ago, in 2013, I managed to ride my bicycle from Plano to El Paso (The Pass)? And how, now, in 2019, I struggled so mightily to operate an internal-combustion-engine driven, four-wheeled truck basically the same distance? Sheesh!

Today I exited Texas via The Pass, but not before stopping at Angie's Restaurant in Fort Hancock to feast on her heavenly vittles. If you read Palomino and the Dream Machine, you may recall my love for Angie's chicken fried steak. If you did not read it, shame on you, but it is not too late to change your evil ways.

I entered New Mexico on Highway 9, the sane, blissful, traffic-less, safe alternative to psychotic I-10. What a relief. Highway 9 essentially parallels the border most of the way across the state. The U. S. Border Patrol maintains a visible, nagging presence on the dirt roads and ranch spurs next to the highway approximately every 300 feet. No need to build a wall here, folks, just fill in the spaces with a few more cops staring out into the void. Solid work, men.

I stopped in Columbus, NM to snap some photos and chat with the dudes in the Railroad Museum/Post Office. This was the site of some mad skirmishes back in the day between Pancho Villa and some old white guy. Pancho got the worst of the skirmishing, but somehow ended up getting the state park on the edge of town named after him - Pancho Villa State Park. Nobody even remembers the other guy except the dudes in the Museum.

An hour or so down the road is Hachita, where nothing presides over everything. Nothing dominates here like nobody's business. Nothing is going on, save rust, wind, and nostalgia.

Two miles past Hachita, though, is a cool Hiker/Biker/Hunter camp. Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hikers or Southern Tier bicycle tourists or random rattlesnake wranglers can pull in here and take a load off.

The CDT crosses Highway 9 about a mile west of the camp. I parked and got out of Spugly for a while to check out the trail in both directions. I have to admit I wanted to wander. Oh, did I want to wander.

Instead, though, I returned to Spugly (the recipient of a fresh oil change at Lube 'N Go in El Paso) and chugged the rest of Highway 9 west to Highway 80 south toward Douglas, AZ. All kinds of cold, nasty weather is supposed to churn its way into America in the next few days, so my strategy is to hide as far south and west as I can get without a passport. Maybe the hawk won't find me.

My hawk evasion plan means avoiding higher elevations, too, so I didn't take the turn up into the mountains to see Chiricahua National Monument. Instead, I stopped at the Apache Museum and the Chiricahua Museum down on the highway to see the snakes. They have all kinds of allegedly live rattlesnakes in glass display cases here. Very peculiar, if not cruel. Of course, I had to take pictures.

Douglas, AZ is right on the border. The main drag is pretty cool. It has murals plus both bike racks and a gazebo, so there you go - this is one high class burg.

Peace and Love From the Desert,

Friday, November 8, 2019

Visions of Chuy's

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I drove all day today, mostly in the rain, with a single purpose: to eat chicken tacos at Chuy's Restaurant in Van Horn, TX. Boy, were they good.

Meanwhile, I made a few stops. Firstly, I gassed up in the wholely unremarkable series of rain-filled potholes known as Fort Stockton. Sorry, no photos.

Things improved as soon as I diverted from Interstate 10 to the backroads of Balmorhea. This is an excellent little decaying settlement with a surprisingly pretty linear park next to the highway. Even on a dreary, cloudbursty day, the stylish gazebo and accompanying rock work stood out. I'm a big fan.

Just down the road from Balmorhea is Fort Davis National Historic Site. I generally like just about any national historic site, but this one didn't really pique my interest. In my opinion, they went overboard on the Jeff Davis southern-style restorations and sort of over-militarized the presentation. It doesn't look like it fits in its surroundings to me. The colorful, mountain-protected setting is gorgeous, though.

I swung back around to the north from the Fort to end the day in Van Horn, my favorite of all the string of towns that dot I-10 between Junction and El Paso. There is just a certain funk to Van Horn that suits me. Plus the chicken tacos, of course.

Peace, Love, and Bug Art,

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Caverns of Sonora

Waxing Gibbous Moon

After wrassling Spugly along a slippery-ass, windy-ass, rainy-ass, 80-mph-speed-limit Interstate 10 for a few hours today, I took Exit 392 and turned south on a narrow-ass, curvy-ass, bumpy-ass, dippy-ass, flashfloody-ass, 70-mph-two-lane road to the Caverns of Sonora. The wind chill was 33°F and I was in no mood to fool around above ground for one more minute.

Fortunately for me (and about nine other shivering-ass pilgrims), Tour Guide Chris was preparing to lead whoever showed up at 1 p.m. deep into the bowels of the limestoney-ass Edwards formation, where the temperature is a steady-ass 72°F and the humidity stays right at about 98%. Balmy-ass.

It would be so balmy-ass down in the caverns that we were all warned to shed our fleece and our rain jackets into a bin before the Great Descent. We did so with worried-ass looks on our chapped, tense, red-ass faces. Tour Guide Chris promised us that our wraps would be there when we finished our tour. We sure hoped he was right.

You might be wondering why I am all of a sudden attaching the rather crude word "ass" to so many adjectives - so many sort of made up adjectives at that. Well, I can answer that question with one word and that word is: Texass. Texass is the peculiar-ass language one begins to speak (or write) once one has witnessed the mangled-ass carcasses (carc-ass-es) of a big-ass number of dead-ass armadillos along the side of the otherwise pristine-ass, Lone Star State-ass highways. Nuff said.

Now for the good stuff. I have been underground many, many times in guided explorations of commercial caverns all over California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. You could say that I heart caverns, if you were the bumper-sticker-ass sort of folk. I am here to tell you that Caverns of Sonora, about ten bumpy-ass miles off I-10, pretty dam close to Ozona, TX, is just about the prettiest-ass hole in the ground I ever saw.

I toured this balmy-ass place for two hours and enjoyed every drippy-ass minute of it. Tour Guide Chris was terrific. He amused when appropriate, but mostly he described and educated without seeming too collegiate. I liked his style and loved the caves.

Check out a few snapshots of some cool-ass cavern features.

The moral of the story is this: never pass up the chance to see the Caverns of Sonora. They will warm you up and give you something wonderful to smile about.

Peace, Love, and Stalactites,

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Waxing Crescent Moon

On Sunday, October 20, 2019, a tornado ripped through part of Dallas, TX at about 9:30 p.m. Miraculously, no human lives were lost, even though buildings and houses were destroyed, trees were uprooted, and cars were tossed around like playing cards.

I arrived in the area a few days later and a few days after that, my brother drove me around some of the streets to view the damage. Crews have been repairing utility poles and clearing trees and rubble, but it will be a while before the worst of it can be fixed. So sorry for the people whose homes were wrecked.

The Weather Channel featured this aerial shot
showing the path of the tornado. The blacked-out
area was devastated.

The Dallas Morning News photographed the
rooftops of Thomas Jefferson High School.

Neighborhoods in Northwest and North Dallas got clobbered.
Photo by John H. Ostdick
Photo by John H. Ostdick

This shopping center looks like a war zone.

Total loss.
I still don't understand how there were no deaths or major injuries caused by this tornado. It just doesn't seem possible. So crazy!

Peace, Love, and Wow,