Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE On The Road Again, Winter in the Southwest

Greetings Cohort:

Regarding something I wrote last letter about translating the CDI brochure into Dutch: I wrote a friend in Holland about it and he wrote back: I [think] that it would be a complete waste of time! Every Dutchman that would (plan to) be in the USA for a trip like that would be perfectly able to read English!

And so I wonder again how many Americans learn the languages of the countries they visit?

Now it is almost Spring again and I am just getting around to gathering my notes and culling the photos to put together another letter. They seem to come further apart. I seem to be very busy for someone who ... what... is not working? I'm working very hard, just not earning a salary. Yesterday I made the first pass through the pile of 2002 1040A forms and come up with a tax due of over $500.00! Not so good for having no W-2's to go with it. I must be doing something wrong.

15th October 2002, Conway Truck Service, Living in a Garage

Tuesday afternoon. The new motor has arrived. It is a Caterpillar and the black stripes are pretty narrow so maybe it will be a mild winter. It looks like it will fit between the frame rails but there will be lots of things to change. Most everything is on the other side or the other end. Starter, alternator, compressor, for instance, all will have to be rewired or replumbed. The fuel lines and the heater hoses look to be in the right place but the oil pressure mightn't. Not sure where the motor mounts are.

22nd October 2002, Still Living in a Garage...

New Engine Between the Frame RailsThe motor is in--at least it is sitting between the rails--and the "front" mount is attached. Front is in quotes cos it is that mount at the fan end of the engine, the front as you stand there and look at it, but really the rear with respect to the bus as a whole. (Speaking of wholes: How is a bus like a sailboat? A bus is like a pothole in the road that you try to fill with money. Not quite as poetic perhaps as a sailboat being a hole in the ocean but the concept of trying to fill the hole with money is just the same.)

So, now we have to attach the rear mounts, jog the position a bit, shorten the driveshaft by an inch or so, and reconnect all the wires and hoses and control cables. May well be another few days...

El Gato is almost ready to go. In the meantime La Gata has pretty well pulled out the last of the stitches in her foreleg. This time tho the wound has closed. It never slowed her down tho. Even wearing that silly Elizabethan collar she still managed to ravage the rugs and climb the curtains. If this keeps up I may have to lace her kibbles with Ritalin.

26th October 2002, Another Week in the Garage...

I am still in Conway where it is snowing today. In the garage it is almost cold enough to snow and I am taking some time off from this motor install process to catch up with the mail. And to warm my fingers and toes.

30th  October 2002,  The Purr Box Works!

Go LightThe Cat Drag'd Inn will be headed west soon. The new motor was started yesterday and while we still have to connect the radiator and do several other major things like connect the foot throttle--no simple matter since it pulls the other way to the old motor--the end is in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel has turned green.

My mechanic, Paul, said at the end of one recent oh-dark-thirty discussion of some of the philosophical aspects of that subject --Well, all that comes with age.

And I replied --All that is about the only thing that comes with age.

3rd November 2002, And we are STill in the Garage...

The new motor is purring along but for the radiator that still needs to be installed. That at least should require no further custom fitting. Still have to replace the cowling and bumper behind the engine. That could take another day. We're shooting for a relaunching on monday afternoon.

6th November 2002, Another Week Becomes Another Month

Drydock tools and stuff.Needless to say that departure did not happen. One thing led to another and the snow engendered numerous road calls that kept Paul hopping instead of welding. Things got really hectic this morning. (or was that yesterday morning?) My delayed departure was further delayed. Several cascading glitches complicated by 4-6 inches of yucky slush in the drive. As we added coolant and cycled the temperature of the engine a glycol leak developed between the timing chain cover and the block. Meanwhile the air dryer decided the front end of the bus needed a little attention; that item led to a rebuild of the dryer. Tracing the glycol leak uncovered a hot spot where one of the compressed air lines burst just as we were finding it.

The frosting on the cake so to speak was to find that the aluminium straps I expected to find at the plumbing and heating shop, long a mainstay of the insulating ductwork installations, to hold the fibreglass blanket around the exhaust pipe, have been replaced by plastic things not unlike Ty-wraps. Zipties I think they are called. Plastic will not do on this hot exhaust pipe. Have to look elsewhere. Nowhere else in this town. Use copper lashing wire. Look later...

The heat is working. The lights are working. Sarah La Gata has retreated to her place of refuge under the galley table. It remains only to finish a few cosmetic items and wait for the snow to melt in the front yard.

We are on top of it all now. Again...

In addition to all that a letter from the El Dorado Hot Spring place where I am to work this winter took off some of the urgency. The person who was to arrive after me has arrived early so the crunch is relieved and I need not hurry so. Ahh...

The weather this coming weekend bodes well and if the last little project moves along like the several accomplished today then finally the great escape will take place without further ado.

Today's new word: defenestrate. As in I feel like defenestrating.

7th November 2002, Almost there...

Supposed to be 15 here tonight. The furnace will work overtime. The view from the bay is not too good in here, benches piled high with junk and old parts, tyres and hoses hanging on the walls, the greasy cement floor is not friendly to bare feet, but the big furnace heats the space nicely when the bay doors are closed and I can set up my shower over the floor drain every night or two. I won't complain about the view.

9th November 2002, On The Road Again!

First test drive last night went well: To the dump station for a well earned evactuation, the grocer's to replenish the larder, and the laundry to clean up after--I've not had so many dirty-filthy clothes all at once in a long while. But the drive was nice. There are few different things to get use to, like more power, and different sounds, and there are a few things that may have to be changed, like the exhaust pipe, which has already come in contact with the pavement.

I am excited to get going. This Cat has more pickup, fairly leaps away from a standing start, and seems to be governor limited to 2500 rpm. That amounts to about 58 mph which is Ok with me, I usually don't drive faster than 50-55 anyhow.

This Caterpillar motor has sounds different to the Detroit. Of course it has been since May that the bus made any noise at all. (When I woke up the GPS it still thought it was on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, between Pagosa Springs and Alamosa Colorado.) The motor sounds louder, more clattery. Is that why they call it a Clatterpillar? Inside, the bus is quieter, especially the high frequency sound, but the noise in general is much reduced so I am extra happy with the new Soundown Insulation.

The exhaust pipe was rerouted at installation to come out beyond the bumper and at a more shallow angle to avoid blowing up as much dust on dirt surface roads and campgrounds. However, at the bumper it becomes the lowest point aft of the drive axle and, given the overhang of the rear end, there is a high likelyhood of the pipe making contact with pavement under certain conditions of drainage dips and catchments. The first such opportunity presented itself upon pulling away from the dumpstation and I managed to hit it straight on without even aiming. Scruuunnnch! Got to do something about that...

Now it is time to load up the tender and head south at the next high tide. Someone suggested breaking a bottle of champagne over the front bumper but then I'd have to sweep up the glass and all the bubbly would be wasted in the snow. We'll just drink it instead.

12th November 2002

Judie The Gypsie wrote I should "Just open the bottle, drink some and slash some on the Cat.  A baptism to be gratefully past due.  Drink the rest, get lots of sleep and drive onward ..."

Good idea Judy. But too late for today. Somehow now I am tired of wailing--aren't you all so glad?--so I'll not tell about the water pump and how I turned around at Concord and limped all the way back to Conway. Now I may as well stay until thursday when the next food distribution to the indigent & elderly takes place.

16th November 2002, Loaded for Bare and Dreaming of The Desert...

After the fiasco with the water pump the next bad news concerns the geen plant, I am sorry to say that at the moment I cannot remember its name, that thick leaved, spiky edged thing, Agave perhaps?

It has been leaning to the right (Right maybe?) and antagonising passers by in the companionway where it took up residence upon coming on board the bus back in April. Now it appears that one husky leaf has broken off. Perhaps due to La Gata jumping on it, perhaps due to its tenacious grip upon those textiled visitors I chance to have once in a while. My worst experience with this plant is an occasional scratch on my ankle.

So, the question is: It has been too long since the breaking to try surgical reattachment. Will this leaf survive if I jam it back into the soil?

Today I am visiting with one of my sisters who lives in Nashua. There was a bit of snow this morning and more is forecast later today. I hope to get out of here this evening and move a little further south. I told Paul, my mechanic in Conway, that I would look for help elsewhere if I could get as far as the MAssachusetts border. He breathed a sigh of relief and wished me a speedy deliverance. There is little chance I will get to El Dorado in time for Thanksgiving now, more likely that holiday will happen in Z'hills, or Nawlins. Stay tuned.

In the early '50's, my first Boy Scout Merit Badge was Stamp Collecting. Since then I have been purchasing plate blocks of new issues. Now that there are piles of them and I am trying to clean house I find that they are not such a collectable after all. About the only good use today for old mint plate blocks is to stick several of them on a letter and mail it to someone. Attached here is a list of some of the blocks remaining intact since I have been tearing them apart to pay postage. If you see anything you need to flesh out your collection write soon.

18th November 2002, Franklin MAssachusetts, Visiting Old Friends

salt on my roads, salt
in my wounds, clouds overhead,
befuddle my mind.

19th November, Along the Road Someplace, Wandering Jew Takes Flying Leap

Sarah La GardenerDelorme and AAA need to add some data to their maps. Something useful. Bridge and Tunnel Restrictions would be nice. Road Surface Material and Bumpnicity Factor would be very useful. I should like to be able to route via roads with fourteen foot height limits, propane permitted, and smooth surface. If what it takes to find a smooth surface is to drive on the secondary and terciary roads then that would be usefull to know. Some of these highways are so bad you end up going at secondary road speeds anyhow.

The wheelbase of the bus and the length of the concrete slabs are such that when combined with the harmonic relationship of the springs and the road speed the result is a pitching and tossing not unlike that aboard the RV Polar Duke whilst crossing the Drake Passage between Punta Arenas and King George Island. I stopped along the Way to take another Dramamine and survey the damage. The bookshelf of genealogical tomes and Guy Davenport novels had emptied itself all over my pillow. All that heavy reading could have really put to sleep anyone in the bed. Over by the telly the VCR was hanging out by its cables. The Wandering Jew had leapt from its shelf; the wet soil was strewn about on the bed and the sprigs of plant looked like an unforecast diaspora had hit with a vengence.

21st November 2002, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD

I'm writing from the North Carolina Restarea on i85 where a blizzard of oak leaves is drifting and blowing from a clear sky. The fog of early this morning has lifted and I have stopped to take a bit of second breky and a stoll with Sarah La Gata conmigo Booger Mesquite La Rubia Scarface. I think there is more to her name than that but her tail is not long enough to record more.

A big tank truck is parked next to me with a company name of "Womanized" on the side. A man is driving.

Today's new word: lum-pen (lum'puhn, loom'-)  adj.
                  1.  of or pertaining to disfranchised and
                       uprooted individuals or groups, esp.
                       those who have lost status.

Some of the roads in North Carolina are like that and I felt right at home.

26th November 2002, About to Depart Jekyll Island.

I was here last year about this time. More crowded now. School seems to be on holiday, beach crowded and not as much fun. Part of that has to be that I am more in a hurry. I've not been able to shake off the feeling of haste that is driving me this time. All these places I want to stop and visit and at each of them all I want to do is get going again. The weather was great, and still is, and I did some bike riding on the trails and the beach but no sand castles this time,  no sunbathing and no kites. Time to go.

2nd December 2002, Frost In FLorida

David has two dogs that between them have seven legs. But it was not the alligator what did it.

Thirty-five at five-thirty outside The Cat Drag'd Inn in Hudson this morning. Down in the hollow below David's home, around the alligator's pond, there was frost upon the grass and a steam rising from the water. Safe to open Sarah La Gata's hatch, David said, Gators don't feed unless the temperature is above 85f. He has a large duck wandering around in his yard. As long as the duck is about then he knows it is safe for his dogs.

RoadRunner Patrol, 1967This David is the one on the right in the green shirt in this photo from the old days. Thanksgiving was with Cousin David who lives in Venice a few days south of here. Three generations gathered around two tables for a fine day of rememberance.

Of Eggs and Ex's... Ted has brought to my attention a shift in the pronunciation of the allophone "ex" as in words: example, exit, exonerate, exfoliate... In some such words, he says, the shift from "ex" to "eggs" --indicated as "ek" or "ik" and "ig" respectively in my dictionary--is readily apparent in today's speech. A cursory inspection of the dictionary pronunciation of the wordlist *ex* indicates about as many words "ex" as "eggs". In the case of "exit" both pronunciations are given: (eg'zit, ek'sit). So, who is right?

Perhaps it is a matter of regionalism? New Hampshire v.s. everywhere else? Maybe Ted's noticing the influx of dialects from other parts of the country?

5th December 2002, Visiting Neighbors and Walking in the Sun

Sunnny Oaks Haven camp/club is on the north side of i-10, 60 miles east of Tallahassee. El Dorado is on the south side, 40 miles west of Phoenix. Each just about the same distance away from the median but three time zones apart.

6th December 2002, AL-LA, Mobile in Mobile

Long day, 500 miles...

I picked up an old man who was hitching along i-10. He was returning to Texas from burying his mother in Chicago. He told me this was only the second time he had hitched in his life. The first was when he returned home from basic training in 1953. This time he started out from Chicago on a bus but he was robbed whilst changing buses and took to hitching. Strange guy tho. I would have taken him all the way to his home, it was not far off my route, but he wanted to get off most of a day away from there. This guy has to be about ten years older than me and here he is hitching a ride. I felt more remorse about his being robbed than that he was just coming from burying his mother.

Then there were two guys, one old, one young, with all manner of climbing hardware dangling from their packs, coming from Montana and going only another twenty miles west on i-10. Dropped them off and just up the road, not even up to speed yet, and there is another old guy.

This one has been hitching back and forth across the country for years he said. Lives in a little tent or sleeps under bridges. He was in FLorida last week and left about the same time as me. During the day I was walking around the Live Oak park picking up trash he was hitching and then when I spent a day driving in the rain he was hiding under a bridge. His last ride left him off at an exit ramp halfway down the west side of the Mississippi River bridge and he walked from there at noon to where I picked him up a few miles, and a few hours, later. We had bean burritos for supper and I left him off at the next truck stop where I planned to fuel and sleep before turning south to Galveston.

Interesting that I had not seen any hitchhikers so far this trip and then there were these four, and several others I passed by, all in one day, all in a few hundred miles.

8th December, Pepper Land

Is there any relationship between Dr Pepper and Sgt Pepper?

The kids behind the counter of Old Doc's Soda (and gift) Shop at the Dublin TeXas Dr Pepper bottling plant did not recognise "Sgt Pepper". Not even after I added such words as "Beatles" and "Band". The plant at Dublin has been bottling Dr Pepper for 111 years and is "the only one which continues to use the original pure cane sugar recipe." The tour through the plant and museum includes a bottle of the famous 10-2-4 Dr Pepper.

11th December, Christmas Dinner in Amarillo

With Ed and Nan, old friends from way back.

16th Dec The Cat Drag's Inn

The Cat Drag'd Inn has arrived safely at her Winter quarters in Tonopah (hot water under the bush) AridZona at the El Dorado Hot Spring. The engine got pretty hot on some of the hill climbs durning the last few days but I was careful to keep it below 230f. Climbing out of Salt River Canyon from Globe to Phoenix required the use of a water spray on the radiator.

But over all the new insulation performed well. Hard to make any seriously objective comparison with the old insulation since the motor changed at the same time. The new motor is larger and mounted differently. My impression is no doubt influenced by my desire to justify the expense of the insulation however I am satisfied that the bus is quieter and the temperature I observe on the cabin side of the firewall is somewhat less than before. Before, 150f was not unusual. Now, I think 121f was the highest I saw.

2002 December 25th,  Christmas at Ian's. Soaking in The City.

Smog is thick. Traffic is thick. People are thick.

The only snow I have seen since departing Conway fell from the underside of a truck just down from the high country to the north. There has been some frost on the lounges in the soaking areas I start up each morning. Mostly the day time temperatures are climbing into the 40's but still a little too cool to be comfortable in anything less than what I learned to know at McMurdo as ECW gear.

Between the weather and the traffic even the view of Saddle Mountain to the west of the Sunset Pool has been obscured.

On Christmas Eve there appeared in the carpark of Alice's Restaurant a 1963 Superior Coach. --Only eight of this model were built, said Jack, the owner/driver who appeared as I was taking a picture of the headlight detail. This one was constructed as a motor home for Ernest Borgnine but he never drove it and it was later sold.

Stef made a nice ham dinner. Me'n'Ian made my famous apple-raisen-brandy pie. Perhaps in view of the truth in packaging rules I should call it apple-brandy-raisen pie but then some parents mightn't let their kids partake. Lots of leftovers. Yum!

27th December, The 3rd Day of Christmas

I am reading all manner of reports of snow in the north country and I want you to know it is white enough here when the frost is on the lounge chairs and the steam is rising from the hot pools. White enough when the sultry warm evenings are basking in the light of the full moon.

30th December, Birthday Suit Birthday Party...Birthday Suit Birthday Party

...for young Master Ian. He is 13 years old now; gradujusting from Urchin to Teenangler. The gathering was held in The Corral, the largest hottub here. A floating table held the candle top'd pumpkin pie and we all sat around in the hot water. B&J's struggling to maintain its integrity, guests In Hot Water as we say here. Great fun.

No longer a Master, not yet a Mister. Driver's License next...

2003 Febter 4th, What Ever Happened to New Years? Where Did January Go?

This morning is to start with some nice Red River hot cereal! Outside is 20f colder than just a couple of days ago.

Bare Boy meets Bear CactusI missed you at the Magic Circle. But it was great fun anyhow.

Ian managed to cop a week off school and the weather was the best in three-four years. Wind enough to fly kites, sunny and warm so as to sunbathe at the same time. Lots of nude hiking and bike riding until my front tyre blew out a mile away from camp.

Found a used handheld GPS at one of the fleamarkets. New toy to learn and new "hobby" to play with. Have you read about geocache yet?

Now back at Eldo to have a soak and return to work. Ha!

2003 Febter 23rd, PHX Cowers

Went to see Prairie Home Companion at the Cricket Pavilion last night. What a fiasco! PHX is a city that does not much embrace public transportation. Buses run on the crowded city streets only once an hour on Saturday.

I met Ian at his home and we had a fancy lunch with his mum and sister. Thence by bus to the venue. The bus was a half hour late so no fare was collected; that was nice. Then we got pointed in the wrong direction by a driver when we asked where the Pavillion was. The driver sent us to the corner where his bus would have gone round the block. About ninety degrees off to the north of where we wanted to be for the front gate. The venue rises like a monolith above the surrounding ticky-tacky housing developments but there is no sign proclaiming such. I didn't know. So we walked well out of the way around the block to get to the gate. The bus never passed us. Just as well we walked.

Then at the gate the security drones are inspecting bags. Ian has yet to learn to be somewhat less than enthusiastic, a little more circumspect, and is helping the gategoon paw through my bag. What's in these bottles? Water in this one. Can't bring in your own water bottles. Only sealed commercial bottles are allowed. It doesn't say that on the ticket, nor on any of the promos for the show. And what's this? A pocket knife. No pocket knives!

What am I suppoed to do with these things you won't permit me to bring in? Take them back to your car. My car is miles away on the other side of Phoenix, we came by public transportation; do you have a place to check things? Over there--the gategoon points over my head past the end of the queue--there is Guest Services.

It gets worse...

At Guest Services there is a line of people checking water bottles and in some cases whole daypacks. I line my water bottles up with all the others. What are we afraid of today? I ask. We don't know what some people may have in their water bottles. And then I bring out my small Swiss Army Knife in its fine leather holster that I have been carrying for twenty some years. Oh! the guestgoon reacts as if the blade were open and pointed at her. We can't check pocket knives, sorry.

That did it. I started frothing at the mouth. Ian was cringing and telling me to calm down--yelled at me: STOP IT! I asked to speak to a supervisor. Took them five minutes to work up through three layers of overgoons to find one capable of thinking. Take it back to your car. I went through my routine again. Frothing all the more. What kind of an operation is this? I don't mind that you are pawing through my bag. I don't mind that certain things are not allowed. But this is ridiculous that you are unable to check my pocket knife!

The overgoon talked on the radio to a Supervisor and then to a SUPERvisor. Finally as the preshow warmup is starting they agree that this time, once only, they will check my knife--but I should know better than to bring a knife next time.

It gets worse...

Inside at the food place(s) one can purchase a cheepsburger for six dollars. Six! dollars... And a bottle of Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, one pint-8 fluid onces (710ml) is THREE DOLLARS and seventy-five cents! I just happen to know that such water is around fifty cents a bottle by the case so it does not sit well with me to see it being sold at 600% markup. And to make matters worse all the twenty or so people working the food stand are VOLUNTEERS. Its not like the exorbitant markup is going to pay their salary or anything. Three dollars and seventy-five a bottle. No wonder the venue won't let you bring in your own water.

Talk about right by the ...s.

I suppose I should remark that the show was great. I will remember some of the lines and when it comes around on reruns I will remember that I was there amongst the applause, with my three dollar and seventy-five cent bottle of Mountain Spring Water.

On our way from bus stop to the venue there was an opportunity to cross half a block of recently harvested field. Clots of dirt intermixed with dirty rocks made walking hazardous to ones ankles. We were beginning to be anxious about getting there on time after the bus was so late and then Ian suggested we jog a bit. What's the difference between run and jog I asked partly out of curiosity to see if he knew and partly cos he'd already suggested running and I'd declined. So how about if we jog, he'd said and took off only to stumble on one of those rocks disguised as a clot. Let's walk, I said, we're not in that much of a hurry.

In the sketch near the beginning of the show about "The Lives of The Cowboys" Dusty and Lefty are having their usual dialogue. Their body language, and watching the sound effects man, requires a division of attention worthy of a split brain personality. Dusty has been practicing a song which has a loud WHOOP-i-ty-yi-o at the start of the chorus. At the WHOOP! Lefty spills his beans all down the front of his shirt.

After a few of these WHOOPS--which are also causing his horse to buck and neigh--he admonishes Dusty: --Don't you think your song could get along with a bit of a quiet whoop?

--A quiet Whoop? Now that would be an oxymoron if there ever was one.

--You watch who you're calling a oxymoron young feller.

The programme goes on to its conclusion and we eventually get out past the gate and head by a different route for the bus back to Ian's house. Walking this time along the smooth verge between road and another field Ian says: --Its smooth here; how about if we run now that we're not so much in a hurry.

--Now that's an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

--Watch out who you're calling an oxymoron old man.

But he didn't get it! We rehashed the dialogue from the Dusty and Lefty skit before he realised where he got the line from and then I had to define oxymoron before it all made sense.

Gardyloo, ajo

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

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