Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE Off The Road Again,  Home in The Desert-Winter in Hot Water.Nude Sunbathers Ahead

Greetings Cohort:

Now that it is almost about to be Spring I suppose it is high time I get this Winter Letter to the printer.

There are some magical times late in the afternoon when the air is at such a temperature and softness that it is difficult to find that boundary place where you leave off and the rest of the world begins. Yesterday was like that. It lasts only for a few moments but during that time life is so special. I wish it would last forever. But then I suppose it would not be so special after a while.

2003 november 1st, Unpacking at El Dorado Hot Spring

I finally threw away my second computer. Threw away the first one long ago. But this one... I guess I was hoping if I carried it around long enough it might just fix itself. Three thousand dollars I paid for it in '89. Worked well for a long time. Gave it to my sister when I bought a new one years later. She used it for a while and passed it on to her daughter who used it more. They even spent some to repair it. Now it has lots of problems and every time I looked there was more wrong. Now it is in little pieces. I'll keep the carry case. That is a fine piece of carry on luggage.

11 november: Once upon a long ago this was known as Veterans Day...

Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma solareI'm busy here. Had a nice walk in the outback. Twice even over the weekend. Did a triathlon. Drove the truck as far as it would go on the gravel road into the desert. Then bicycled on an increasingly rougher road cum trail until the trail ran out in a steep wash filled with cactus competing for space with boulders the size of cats and small children. Up and up to the top of the saddle and then return by a different route to the bikes, and the truck, and finally the nice hot tubs. Along the trail I espied a horned lizard. Phrynosoma solare, probly, is 3-6 inches according to my guide The Nature of Arizona so this one must have been a juvenile: it was barely two inches end to end.

Several new geocaches have been the object of my days off walkabouts too. This set is mostly in a flat area. The Skinwalker team has been pretty successful, finding five out of six.

Check out The Big Dead Place:  Alternative News from The Ice.

2003nov23, Murder and Mayhem in the News

Ian Cacheing InThere was a squib on NPR yesterday to do with that--Alternative News that is. On "Wait-Wait, Don't Tell Me, The NPR News Quiz" they regularly have articles concerning the war in Iraq, the conditions in Bagdad &c. Terrorism and the maiming and killing of children are mentioned all too often with greater and greater casualness. Yesterday they had an article concerning Michael Jackson and the reporter made a point of apologising for it. This could get messy, he said, as if some listeners might want to stop up their ears. Better we should murder children than that we should love them.

26nov Happy Thanksgiving

Thanks! and same to you. We were thinking of doing up a turkey but there would be no dressing it. Besides, there are enough turkeys here already. I think we are going to have a ham; no dressing required.


A guy showed up at Eldo yesterday asking for me by name. Do I know you. I replied? I guess, he said, that I have the advantage of knowing who you are but you don't remember me. And he went on with a storey of how he stumbled upon my website while searching for information on Saddle Mountain. Cool! Then he brought out a photo of a group of Scouts posing behind a placard that proclaimed Wah-tut-ca, 1973, and pointed to one slim blue-eyed boy in the middle. Remember that cross country tour? We went to the Grand Canyon, and Chula Vista, we had bicycles on the roof; I remember laying on the ground in Banff putting the dipstick back in the engine--my name's Bob Anderson.


Now he is a big stocky guy, working at the powerplant out back here and living in an "off the grid house" near Saddle Mountain. Said his love of the southwest was kindled by that summer with the several other kids we spent living on the road. Doubly cool! I will have to dig out the pictures and records of that time the next visit to my sister in Nashua.


The weather stick was pointed down and dripping yesterday. Today it is still down and there is fog but at least not dripping. Not sure if the fog isn't on the inside tho. Running the propane blast furnace produces copious water vapour which besmirches my otherwise pristine viewing ports. We had 0.14 inches of precipitation yesterday in the form of mostly steady rain. Now it will be foggy for a while until it all dries out.

How can I segue to the subject of Igmu short of mentioning Sean's letter where he writes: ...must be an interesting companion, I only wish my [room mate] had her personality. At least she is a good mouser.

Sara(h) La Igmu is cute more than anything. She is not a very good conversationalist. Our discussions are clearly one-sided. And not cos she cannot get a meow in sidewise. Another part of her name is La Rubia. But she is a good mouser. And for that matter a good lizarder too. Except that she gets real confused when Mr.Lizard actuates survival feature #1 and disconnects his tail. La Rubia Igmu comes running home with a wriggling tail between her teeth exclaiming: --You should've seen the part that got away!

I think I am going crazy. I think I am going to apply for a disability for being psychopathic. Sometimes I think every now and again I am going paranoid. Who's looking over my shoulder now? La Gata has a micro camera in her right ear... I notice she always looks at me with her head tilted just so. Or she will sit so that her ear is pointed at my monitor... The vet is in on it. I had her examined a couple of weeks ago and he said not to worry about that growth in there. Nor the lump on her back or the fact that her tail seems gyro stabilised in a vertical position even when she is sleeping.


ajo cacheing outMore numbers. Is that all that is left in life? 200 Winter Solstice Letters printed. Ten or so lost to the process of doing it double sided. One hundred eighty some mailed. Five received before I posted my outgoing. I'll keep you informed of the returns and the replies. The Winter Solstice Letter was for the most part a summary of the Several Summer Letters prior to this one. On the other side of the page is a four pane "card" of seasonal greeting. "The Seasonal Madness!", Bill exclaimed. I enjoy writing and staying in touch with friends. If for no other reason this madness is a way of keeping up with the addy changes.

If you didn't receive a paper copy let me know and I will send you one, or another.

Michael, my sister-son, has recently gone off to war. He writes from the trenches: They will tell you how much they love you until you turn them down on their offer. It is then that they throw every bad American word they know at you. It is seriously, very amusing.

The butterflies are migrating. Great flocks of them roost in the broom bush and take off in a cloud when disturbed. And whilst disturbing an old log I found a black widow spider. Long a legend, now I have seen one for real.

23 december

'Twas the night before the night before and all through The...Inn, computers are beeping, Igmu is meowing, candles are burning, dates are instuffing, skin is reflecting the warm glow of friendship.
ID=BAE_ECARD_Order&id=EG1180-878290-81851280&userID=0 ...probly expired by now...

Gods and goddesses, I hope I don't get this sort of response from even a tenth of everyone I sent snailmail cards to. Now, today, I have received a second. I cannot see these cards. Whatever it is, probly incompatibility between browser and host or some obscure setting. Oh Well. As me venerable Mum always said, its the thought that counts. Thank you for that, however I would rather have paper. Something you at least wrote upon in your own hand if not designed from the blank page on up. Ecards cannot be hung from a string, they cannot be shared at a glance with visitors nor be sent again next year or cut apart to recycle as tags or greetings of other sorts. Worse yet they cannot even be not-seen without wading through a screen full of adverts and disclaimers, come-ons to participate in the propagation of some tacky vendors message. Like paying to wear a teeshirt that proclaims some commercial message, now even Christmas cards succumb to commercial use.


I hope you ate well. We had a merry debauchery here between guests calling for service and wind shifting smoke across the table. The dinner was late for the turkey but well done in the end. My mince pie came out a flaming success and there are leftovers enough of everything to take us through to Epiphany. Now I have a pile of dishes to clean and one AWOL fork to apprehend.


It is Young Master Ian's B'Day. Perhaps he will become Mr. Howell this day. I guess he would like to think so, he'll be 14. 05h00 here and I have a banana cake to frost. Yesterday that would have been easier; I could have just left it out and it would have been all nice and frosty after a night at 27f. This morning I will mash up some cream cheese and add a cup of sugar and spread it all around.


I used to stay up late and do all the popular things but then I realised one day that the Year would be New just as well without my attending to it. From before that realisation I have two new years storeys:

The first was my third attempt to get to the summit of Mount Carrigan in Winter. Located in the southeast corner of The Pemmi, the trail starts two miles up a gravel road from the nearest plowed road and then goes five miles to the wooded summit where a fire lookout tower rose from the scraggly trees to survey the Pemmi Wilderness. The first two attempts had happened in preceeding years--on one of those trips I rolled my VW microbus and we turned back after spending the night in a makeshift stick leanto. But that's another storey.

This third attempt was with older boys, much better equipped and better trained. And we planned to spend the first night, New Year's Eve-Eve, on the trail. After a two mile ski up the road, all the while talking about what a great run out this would be if the snow should last long enough, we turned off the Saywer River Road and continued up the Signal Ridge Trail. At a point about two miles from the start of the trail, at the site of an old CCC camp, where the trace of the logging road we'd been following went on to become the Carrigan Notch Trail, we set camp for the first night.

One trying-to-be man and five almost-a-man boys, in three tents, each team self-contained with everything from stove to cook breky in bed to pee bottles so one would not have to go out from deep warm snuggly sleeping bags into the freezing cold night. That first night was the culmination of a lot of training trips but otherwise uneventful other than our success at completing it without burning down a tent.

New Year's Eve Morning we stashed the skis and tents and switched to snowshoes for the steeper ascent of the Signal Ridge now rising above us towards the summit. That slog, up hill all the way, took all day. We were hopeful that the fire tower would be unoccupied for it was our intent to stay within it for this second night. We knew from the pristine quality of the snow on the trail that nobody was ahead of us from this approach; however this trail was not the only way up.

Just at sunset we were standing on the peak and in that moment the bonds of youthful friendship solidified into a camaraderie that would carry us along for years. As the sun set on the old year the full moon rose on the new. Clouds floated by below, the sky above was clear but for the welcoming ladder up to the tower.

Supper was inside. We had our warm rum and eggnog before turning in. A couple of kids slept up in the attic, everyone else found space on the desk/ledge that surrounded the center of the tower. Somewhen around midnight--the moon was overhead--several of us stood on the railed catwalk and pee'd over the side. The temperature was -20 but it seemed warmer even tho we thought we could hear the clatter of ice marbles on the ground below. Dawn came late that first day of the new year.

Where we had stashed our unnecessary gear all was well. Quick lunch, repack, switch back to skis and on down the hill. I remember little about the run out; it must have been good. And then we went all to our separate homes to get ready for school and work.

The other storey is a lot shorter. Another New Years, another place, another group. We were at the Zealand Notch hut. The caretaker oversaw as guests from each group worked together to prepare a sort of potluck supper. Then, with the dishes out of the way, the champagne started. Few of this party, already tired from the long hike in, would make it to midnight. I suggested we celebrate New Years in London. The time was right. Each hour after that we chose another place, another table, another set of snacks, and opened another bottle. Each hour there were fewer people awake for the New Year of that time zone. England, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Scotia, and finally New Hampshire. The next morning we had five messes to clean up before we could start breky.

This evening I will have a glass of champagne, it is New Year's Eve, to be sure, but now it is at whatever Time Zone suits.

1st January 2004, MMIV-I, El Dorado, Tonopah, AridZona

This time we started taking notice at Novasibeirsk but held off the first toast until London. I was still on duty until after Moscow. Beyond that Reykiavik and Nuuk followed in close succession. By the time New Years had arrived at Fredericton I was ready for bed so my compatriots took over. The last of them completed the task of seeing the change of years all the way through to Point Barrow.

Twelfth Night Arrival

Busy is the word. Not so much fun. But certainly a learning experience. My truck has been loosing brake fluid for about a year now and finally it is happening fast enough to be able to find the leaking part. Right rear wheel cylinder. That implies the shoes will have to be replaced as well. That further implies the same job be done on the left side as well. Got into it far enough to determine that the right drum is about worn through. As if it has been dragging for ten thousand miles.

Dumpster Diving? Skinnydipping Takes On a Whole New Meaning...

That computer I threw away back in november? I finally stumbled upon the crucial part. By now most of the screws are missing but that is of little consequence. Part of the case has been broken and another part has a new life as a parts tray for other jobs. I've laid out the guts on a bread board and installed the missing link. Eureka! It Woiks!

22 january

The past week or more has taken a lot of my time to troubleshoot and eventually rewire the water level controller in the big tower. An electric device that measures the height of the water in the tower by passing a current through the liquid and using the megohms of the water to trip a relay that controls the pump.

300 volts from a transformer is connected to the top of a relay solenoid. The bottom of the solenoid goes to the upper-full-pump-off probe in the tank and the metal tank is returned to the low side of the 300volt transformer. The voltage on that upper probe at this point in the cycle measures 300v.

When the pump fills the tank to the upper probe it grounds the probe, the voltage goes to near 0v (2.3v) and the current through the water is sufficient to trip the relay. Two things happen: One normally closed contact in the pump circuit opens and the pump stops. One normally open contact to the lower-empty-pump-on probe closes effectively transferring control to the lower probe. The relay is therefore latched until the water goes down far enough to get below the lower probe.

All that works fine so far. The pump runs, the water comes up, the pump stops and the water starts down. Now, this is when it gets screwey.

As the water recedes and the lower probe begins to come out of the water you can see the 2.3v begin to climb a few millivolts, and then a few more. Faster and faster the voltage comes up as the water recedes. 2.5, 3.3, five, eight, ten, and then it leaps up to 600v!

Where the hell is 600 volts coming from in a circuit that is sourced by only 300? When I measure from common to the top of the transformer where it connects to the top of the relay there is still only 300 volts. But some how or other the voltage now on the probes, both of which are now out of the water, has risen to 600 and the difference, the additional 300, is still across the relay holding it closed. So even though the tank is near empty the pump will not start.

A week went by of experiments with a bucket of water and test probes right at the controller, of pulling the working probes out of the tank to see what they looked like, of checking and redoing all the connexions...

The problem seems to be related to the wiring between the controller and the probes. 250 feet of THHN #14 in plaxtic conduit under ground and then metal conduit up the side of the tower to a junction with the probes at the top. When I change to a different set of wires, strung out on the ground, hanging down the tower, the same length as those underground, the system works just fine. Well, I canna leave it all with these wires strung out across the carpark so we were faced with the prospect of a new trench and new conduit. Finally I decided to move the controller to the base of the tower.

New wire runs from a box at the bottom to the top where they connect to the probes. The old probe wires in the conduit underground now connect the controller to the pump relay back at the pump. Works great so far. I still need to watch it through a complete cycle. This morning I should know the results and then I have to clean up some of the temporary connexions.

That may all be far too complicated and risque for a family hour news letter but I'm going to leave it in even if it threatens an X rating. If any of you have a clew as to where the extra 300v is sneaking in from do please write and tell me.

26january2004, monday, Magic Circle, South La Posa, Quartzsite

A fortnight away from the hot water for a bit of retreat and regroup.

I have been too long among good company and now am missing it. And I have seemingly lost touch with how to entertain my Self in the absence of good company. Or any company for that matter.

It was a good drive over the hill to here from Tonopah. The...Inn needed some help to get started, the main battery was quite flat--it charged at a fifty amp rate for nearly eighty miles--but once moving all systems seemed to be just as they left off back in October.

Good times at the Ham Radio gathering at Mile-99. Met Gordon West and some of the old-timers with whom I chat on the air from time to time. Only a little shopping for aerial parts at the flea market and a good time with supper at the campfire.

Now relocated to the Magic Circle. Lots of people here but I am alone in the crowd. Despite the common interests we have this is just not my kind of group.

The BLM has raised the fee to camp here again. Thirty dollars now. Exact change required. Exact Change? Is it you they don't trust, I asked the gate keeper, or me? What is happening in this country? We, the people, who own the public lands, must pay to use them. According to an article in the local newspaper 30% of the money that is collected goes to pay for the collection thereof and that collecting is done by volunteers. There is something wrong with that picture.

There is a new church at the corner of Rice Ranch Road and I-10x19. It is the tallest building in Quartzsite and already has become somewhat of a landmark. "Turn right at the church, you can't miss it." The spire is visible from a mile across the desert.

ajo having tea with cronies. efoto by k7deeWent on a 19 mile cross-desert bike ride tuesday. More or less of a straight line from the "B w/o F" enclave south of South La Posa (N33° 36.03' W114° 12.02') to the Boomer's camp north of North La Posa (N33° 38.981' W114° 09.070'). That leg heading to the northeast was about five miles of crossing the flats between the gullies and washes running SE-NW. Roger, another BusNut was at the Boomer camp and we chatted for a while about buses and beards before I headed in town for lunch with Dee. Another straight line, down hill this time, alongside Plomosa Wash, with the new church steeple as guidon, thence around and around through town and traffic, to Burger King of all places. That was a seven mile leg. After tea and talk with some of those ham radio people it was time to head for The...Inn and a shower. The last leg, down wind, up hill, took in parts of Tyson Wash and the Old Yuma Road--and parts of several other no-name roads and washes--for a total of six miles. 5+7+6=18. The rest was made up of wiggles and wobbles and backtracks.

Nice day. Nice shower.

And just for the record: Regarding my entry of 14th december: 44.

The Solstice is behind us and the Vernal Equinox is ahead. In these seasonal doldrums there is time to think about the next tour. As announced last letter, I am still planning a crossing to FLorida and return so I will just repeat:

This next tour (the most likely time-frame is mid-April through May 2004) is wanting for $ome $upport and a few companions to make it most fun. The Cat Drag'd Inn can accommodate several 8-13 year-olds and it would be nice to have another sort of adult along to help with the driving, the mentoring, and the housekeeping. Whinging-TV-addict-couch-potatoes need not apply (Unless they promise to leave their GameBoys at home). Prospective travellers should know how to play Cat's Cradle, wash dishes, like beans and peanut butter (but not necessarily in the same sandwich) and they should know how to read aloud and follow a roadmap. Prospective $pon$or$ need not have any of the above qualifications.

So, gentle readers, here is your invitation: "Eccentric Outlaw with what many consider an unstable and abnormal lifestyle desires to mentor Unschooler Travellers whom he entices with promise of adventure and knowledge the community would just as soon have repressed." If you are a small Human and would like to travel aboard The Cat Drag'd Inn on her next voyage of discovery, or, if you are an adult--but not yet a grown-up--and would like to travel with us or care to sponsor a student to travel in your stead, write me. Write early, just in case there is a big rush at the last minute.

Love, 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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