Travels With Oso con Migo

Sojourn In America

OAE On The Road Again - Circumdrivebulating CONUS

16 May 1998, last letter 28 March 1998 (Letter 98b)

Gentle Readers,

6 April 1998, Today is Birthday Week

Tim, the guy in the next slot south, the birthday boy in his birthday suit, had a birthday on the second; Gloria, who runs the Devon B&B in Christchurch, and my self, and a co-worker, on the third; my sister Susan on the fourth. Anybody else? Gloria told me when I called her that I'd not recognise her, she had lost enough weight to go from a size twenty to a size twelve. Way to go Gloria--I may just have to tolerate another year at McNurdo just to have a look. Susan's daughter Lori has announced her marriage in May to Shawn and I am busy learning about how to redeem bonus miles so I might get to the church on time and get back to The Cat Drag'd Inn before the parking meter runs out.

At The Cat Drag'd Inn I've been working on my Home Improvement Merit Badge. See thru awnings on the bunkroom windows and on the three windows of the street-side galley living room library area have enhanced the moir effect on the view. The 85% reduction in incident sunlight should reduce the heat absorbed by the windows and result in a cooler interior. We'll just see about that. I've also moved the sewer pipe storage pipe from inside the forward belly box to outside, back behind the rear mudflaps, between the propane tanks and the main battery locker. That's supposed to free up something like a cubic foot of storage space in the belly box and relieve a certain odouriferous condition which occasionally manifests coincident with dumping the hopper tank. We'll just see about that too.

9 April 1998

Things are falling into place. I am trying to stay disorganised, impetuous and excited, but already I'm bog'd down in a morass of reservations and schedules of other peoples making. 

On yesterday's walkabout I saw my first snake. It was sort of green and yellow, maybe eighteen inches long if I were to stretch the wriggles out of it, and clearly not a rattlesnake. It was just laying there in the sand and scrub, alive but not moving until I gave it a little poke and then it slithered off under a bush.

Another great day brewing here, I need to go for a longer walk. Tonight I return to work on the night shift.

Here are a couple more URLs concerning the Iridium Project. This one shows a sunlight flare off an IRIDIUM satellite.

12 April 1998, Happy Big Wind Day

At dinner last night I learned that not having a rattle does not necessarily disqualify a serpent from being a rattlesnake. There is a mutation in the pit vipers of Crotalus atrox gaining ground in Aridzona. The diamondback without a rattle. Over the past few years whoever goes around counting snakes has noted that the diamondback rattleless snake has increased from 5 percent to 15 percent of the snakes surveyed. It seems that snakes with rattles get shot or stomp'd on at rattlesnake roundups but the mutants slip through un- noticed. So they get to breed, and increase. Lack of a rattle does not change the venom. Then there is the Black Mojave. John says its venom is 40% neurotoxin--more deadly than a rattler.

More Home Repairs. Mostly a matter of housekeeping, packing, fixing things that I've been able to get along with. With the prospect of guests and lots of driving over the summer I want to make sure I'm ahead of the inevitable. 

The desert continues to bloom. I don't know the names of all the flowers here; some of them grow on the ground, blue, yellow, orange, some of them blossom on the tops of one kind of cactus or another-- those seem to be mostly red or yellow. The proliferation of bugs is also apparent: black and red beetles always in a hurry to run around in circles, twoandahalfcentermeter worms, twoandahalfcentermetering  along in the dust pursued by narrow waisted yellow wasps. I followed one such wasp as it/she drag'd its/her catch from the middle of the airstrip to the edge. The wasp made pretty good time over the hardpan but the going got rough in the sand and weeds. I sat down to watch when the wasp arrived at a burrow under a small weed. She drop'd her worm and went into the hole. A few seconds later she backed out and drop'd a stone on a pile of detritus to one side. In and out, in and out, every few seconds for a couple of minutes, each time another grain, some as big as her thorax. The hole was deeper than an inch, the wasp was at least that long. Finally she came out, turned around  and backed in, dragging the worm down into the hole. Moments later she came out again and proceeded to carry stones from the pile and sand and drop them into the hole.

15 April 1998, Do you know where your taxes are?

Nomads are makers of history. Refugees are its victims. --Robert D. Kaplan said that in The Ends Of The Earth. He writes: "Erhun began by apologizing. He could not offer me the traditional cup of tea that Turks sip throughout the day from countless small glasses, because it was forbidden inside a mosque. Hospitality is a trait that Turks ascribe to their nomadic past, when survival depended on offers of kindness from strangers. But this kind of hospitality has another side: It sets very high standards for friendship, meaning it is easy for the West to fall short. That was the theme of Erhun's talk."

Today I have had installed an exhaust brake on the Detroit 8.2 litre Diesel that pushes The Cat Drag'd Inn. It is supposed to increase the braking effect of the engine by some 35% while giving me another button to push up front. When the Cat is chasing the white line down a long twisty hill every little bit of braking effect helps. Diesels don't provide much in the way of dynamic braking like gas engines. They don't have a throttle plate. When you take your foot off the throttle of a conventional gas engine the throttle plate closes and the intake stroke, working against that obstruction pulls a vacuum which slows the engine and in turn decelerates the car. In a Diesel when you take your foot off the throttle the injectors stop delivering fuel to the cylinders and the engine becomes a load on the drivetrain but not to the same degree. So the vehicle does not slow as much. Even putting it in a lower gear usually results in it going faster down the hill. The exhaust brake causes a valve to be closed in the four inch diameter pipe between the turbo and the muffler. Now the engine has to try to compress the exhaust against that obstruction and that's supposed to give it something to do besides go faster. I have to find a hill around here someplace to test it.

17 April 1998, Here we go round the mulberry bush...

Going round and round with airline tickets. At the rate of a dollar a mile in bonus miles points do you know that this trip to Manchester is going to cost me 25,000 dollars? It surprised me that I have spent that much in the first place. I don't know how far back that goes, five or eight years anyhow, I guess. Getting the points moved from AMEX to Delta was not a problem. AMEX has Humans working for it and Delta does too in that area that makes new reservations. But once it comes to paying for the tickets and getting your hands on them the Humans are few and far between. 

"Welcome to Delta's Automagical Flight and Ticket Information Mesmerizer. I hope you have read your pre-requested copy of Data Dialing For Dummy's, Delta is ready-or-not!" ...and the suave computer with a voice like a soave launches into a menu maze. Don't believe them when they say you can dial your party's extension at anytime. The First Rule in Data Dialing For Dummy's is: "You must wait for the entire menu to dull your senses before dialing the choice you forgot from way back at the beginning; companies often change these menus to add obfuscatory levels and delete popular choices. "

Eventually I got past my ten digit account number and my four digit PIN and the country code, city code, flight code, confirmation code, and my grandfather Sanford's Civil War Retirement Claim Check. Pam answered. Pam? Are you a Human? I was the last time I looked, she responded. How can I help you, I asked.

At first I wanted to have these tickets held for me in San Diego where I would find them after I drive there from AridZona next week. Pam said if I do that "they" will charge me $75.00 for processing at the airport. Better to have them issued now and mailed to you, she concluded.

The tickets have to be mailed to my address of record with this bonus miles account so they are on their way to my post office box in Conway. And then they'll get forwarded to my sister in Nausea. Maybe by late next week my sister will be able to send them to me.

I said to Pam who was now "helping" me after I finally gave up with the insipid ticket computer: Why can't you just mail them to me in Arizona? I want to fly to New Hampshire, I don't want the tickets there, I want the tickets here so I can go there.

Ya-ti-ta-ya-ti-ta-ya-ti-ta-ya...can't do that-blah-blah-blah-blah- blah.

But... I said...

She said I could change the address on the account to Arizona and then they could mail the tickets to me in Arizona.

And then I could change the address back, right?

Yes, she said.

And I said: If you will let me, and help me, now, change the address on my account so you can then mail the tickets to me here in Arizona and then you will let me and help me change the address back to New Hampshire, ... Why can't you just save us all a lot of hassle and mail me the tickets here?

Well! Ya-ti-ta-ya-ti-ta-ya-ti-ta-ya...can't do that-blah-blah-blah- blah-blah.

I should have taken her up on it and done all the changes. I should have. But I was getting really tired of the whole scene. So the tickets are headed to Conway and I'm headed to San Diego.

18 April 1998, Road Kill

A little excitement on the way home after a long night surfing. There is a cement plant along the Maricopa Highway several miles north of my turn to The Cat Drag'd Inn and I was jolted out of my hypnotic reverie by a three hopper tractor trailer cement truck coming out into the travel lane. He rumbled across in front of me and I crossed his wake and passed him thinking about how nice a tall glass of 

Orange Juice with juicy bits of pulp would be to help keep me awake for a few more miles. The speed limit in this section is 65mph, the little truck's cruise was holding at 100kmph and the big truck was gaining slowly. The next time I woke he was zipping by. When he was about three lengths ahead the whole rear end of his trailer disappeared in a cloud of dust and a dull thud shook the little truck. Bits of tyre flew through the space between us followed by a writhing snake of tread quivering with tendrils of steel cord. I was groping for the brake, visions of lunch suspended, remembering Paul telling me how much damage would result to the bus should one of her tyres let go like that. The big truck cut across my path again, this time slowing, headed for the breakdown lane. I went through the dust cloud, dodging bits of tread, resetting the cruise, yawning, thinking about the orange juice again and what condition my tyres were in.

19 April 1998

The reservations are made, the maps on order, and I've pretty much run out of folks to invite. Rather distressing that so many people have the same excuse to avoid a great adventure so they can stay home and complain about how bored they are.

I've met a new friend and bought a new toy.

23 April 1998, The Feast of Saint George

                 |  @___oo
       /\  /\   / (__,,,,|   * * * *  Gardyloo   
  /\  ) /^\) ^\/ _)
 <  > )   /^\/   _)
  ||  )   _ /  / _)
  | \ )/\/ ||  | )_)              Celebrate Saint George's Day
   \_____  |(,,) )__)                      23rd April
          /    \)___)\
      ___(      )___) )___
         _(_______;;; __;;;
From here to San Diego and then north mostly along the coast. There are lots of hot springs and OAEs to visit along that Way. In Seattle I expect to meet Cassius and Charles and David who are flying in to accompany me on the Alaska leg. We will take the bus on the ferry along the Inside Passage from Bellingham to Haines and then drive to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Haines Junction and then south on the AlCan to Bellingham. My guests will fly away then and I will retrieve my little truck and head towards The Dead Roach Ranch and points east.

I may have to stop and find work along the way to fill my tanks from time to time but my plan is to get back to New Hampster by the end of August.

I'll write from time to time but check The Cat Drag'd Inn if you've not read from me often enough. Email service will be affected by the vagaries of cellphone connectivity or the proximity of internet coffee shops.

30 April 1998, Thursday's Child Meeting with my Totem

In a fit of particular depression over the prospect of leaving here, I went for a walk out back in the desert. I took my water bottle and an apple, wore my sandals even, and carried a cellphone. I fantasized falling on the long north-south ridge of crumbly rotten granite-like rock, with nothing on but beads and sandals, and calling 911... A few years ago I'd not have taken a phone. Notwithstanding that I didn't have one--I didn't always take a Ham radio, or even a water bottle. I've rationalised that its not that I'm afraid of dying, there are times when I feel that I'm ready for that ultimate adventure (and all these leave-takings are not unlike little deaths anyhow) but that there are so many loose ends in my life right now that I need/want to clean up. So I carried along a phone in lieu of another person. 

I didn't fall, in fact I was elevated, enlightened at least. Along the ridge I met Gopherus agassizi. The Turtle has long been my totem: If you want to get anywhere you have to stick your neck out. The Lenni Lenape believed The Turtle carried the world on its back, or that the back of The Turtle was the world. The desert tortoise who met me along my Way is the Grandfather Turtle of all time. (He looked grandfatherly as opposed to grandmotherly if you know what I mean.) We stood there on the trail together for a few moments, thoughts passed between us, and I came to know that all would be well.

3 May 1998, Sunday, On The Road Again

After a few last minute procrastinations and two last minute equipment failures The Cat Drags Out of Hidden Valley.

Somewhen Saturday afternoon the compressor on the roof mounted air conditioner had ceased to function. In the process of investigating that I managed to break the HF aerial. The aerial I can fix but the compressor is beyond me. That will have to wait until Yuma now or else I have to spend another two days here. I can deal with that but it would put a serious crimp in the schedule for the next few days.

As usual once I get going it is always too soon from this place and too late to allow sufficient time to enjoy the next place. What am I to do? Its almost enough to make me want to settle down.

Stay Gold, bcnu, Send Money, Love, ajo

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. --RLS

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