Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE On The Road Again — Time to roll up the awning and move along.

Nude Sunbathers Ahead

Greetings Virtual Travellers and Pen Friends:
There are too many phrases I wanted to use to title this letter: Time to roll up the awning and move along. A litany of looks. The National Park Rangers are armed. Reality is the leading cause of stress. The Witch Hunt is on!

WA7FIZ DE k1oIqMary Brown's 1969 AZ car tags.

Stepping into the dark cobweb cluttered interior of the genshack elicited a staticky buzz from the corner behind the pair of bright yellow car tags. Not sure what interested me most: The origin of the static or the origin of the WA7FIZ embossed on the 'Arizona 1969' tags. Neither the noise nor the tags had much to do with my task at hand—to open the power distribution panel and rewire a flaky circuit being used by The Cat Drag’d Inn during the time I’d be working here. However work would have to wait until curiosity was satisfied.

The noise blanker of my Craftsman  receiver (with digital display and signal tracing accessory) did nothing to diminish the buzz. Turned out a metric adjustable snake stick was the tool of choice. With the background noise eliminated—about one meter of diamond back—my attention turned to the bright yellow WA7FIZ car tags from The Grand Canyon State.

1969 was a good year. I was licensed as a Technician, k1oIq, around 1960 and by 1969 had graduated from a Gonset Lunchbox to a Heathkit Shawnee; from an Indian 15 speed bicycle to a Chevy G-10 van.

But what about WA7FIZ? Is that really a ham call? Are these really vanity plates?

My searches of QRZ and FCC returned nothing. Googling the call returned a link to and that database had “Mary V Brown, WA7FIZ:1983”.  The present owner of this property where I am working confirmed “Mary and Lionel Brown were here when I  bought it in Dec 86”. I wrote next to and explained that I was researching the amateur call WA7FIZ which appeared in their data but not in that of QRZ and FCC. “…so I am curious to know if your data includes historical information that the others have discarded.”

Daniel Bateman of replied:   “Yes, that data actually came from our 1983 call directory...

Fascinating! as Mr Spock would have it. Now that I am onto this my interest has shifted slightly. You see, I have BROWNs in my family tree. Joan Brown, N1KGQ, lives in Zephyrhills. This Mary Brown, WA7FIZ, could be a cousin!

Fred Lloyd replied to my letter to QRZ with even more information:
Callsign:     WA7FIZ Class: Technician
Name:     MARY V BROWN
Effective:     20 Apr 1984
Expires:     20 Apr 1994
Address:     STR RT BOX 598
City/State:     TONOPAH AZ 85354

So! Now I know for sure that these fine yellow WA7FIZ car tags are indeed Amateur Callsign Grand Canyon State vanity plates. Next question then: Is Mary Brown still around? Lapsed ham or SK? That question was answered finally from Obituaries of FULTON COUNTY INDIANA, 1986:

The Rochester Sentinel:
Mary V. Brown:  Word has been received of the death of Mary V. BROWN, Tonopah, Ariz. A Rochester resident until 1964, she died Oct. 17...

Cousin or not, back to the distribution panel: Replacing the 20a breaker with a 50a and the  #14  Romex with #4 (seven strand) radically improved the power delivery to The Cat Drag’d Inn; now I can operate the computer and the Fox-Tango-900 at the same time as both a/c units.

2012 Cinco de Mayo

Last week there arrived in the mail from my HMO a movie on the subject of Falling and "Elder Proofing" your house (and the homes of your children as well...). I remember from long ago and far away when with the onset of independent mobility and nascent awareness visiting my grandmother and observing her childproofing her living room. With the DVD was also a checklist of points one might not think of or be too embarrassed to bring up when you next visit your doctor.

I looked around at my Self and my piles of paper and found my sextannual physical X-animation was about due. Also due was a tetanus booster. You never can tell when you're gonna run across a rusty cactus thorn out here in the desert.

Karma shifted into high gear when I called for an appointment. The PCP to which my HMO assigns me is booking three months ahead right now however another doctor, not so far away, whom I saw in 2002, had an opening on Food Bank Day. Since I'd not have to make a special trip I took them up on their offer.

Recently my friend Mike convinced me to buy a new/used/refurbished Magellan GPS quite the same as the one my sister Ann-Marie's Mike let me borrow a few years ago to find my way over the river and through the rain to my 50th High School Reunion. This thing talks. Tells me to get in the right lane for upcoming turns. Tells me You Missed The Turn, do a U'ie and go back!

So the first real use of this new toy was to find my way to Dr Alm. But the GPS does not tell me that the entire office was out to lunch. I never heard of a doctor's office being closed for lunch before. I guess medical practice really has become big business.

You should know that fasting from 20 o'clock the previous evening, no wake-up coffee nor breky, and slaving away four hours at the Food Bank imparts wondrous food fantasies. After all was said and done, poked and prodded, weighed and measured, I have a mostly normal bill of health. For a Geezer.

All the details are not in yet. You have to pay the bill of services before they give you the bill of health. But some details are available: Cholesterol=190, LDL=106, kidney-liver-urine all normal.

On the down side: one skin lesion was removed for biopsy and my PSA is at 4.4, up a little from the last measure in 2008. (2008=3.9, 2012=4.4) But my LDL is down! from 134 to 106 in the same period so I must be doing something right, eh?

2012v17 On The Road Again...

Sort of. For a few miles to move from 339th to 411th for a few remaining getting started tasks: dump & fill, a pile of laundry, a last supper.

Parked at La Casa Blanca. Checking this and that. Some new scrapes on the left rear outer tyre and a twig smaller than a pencil protruding from the sidewall. Unfortunately the pencil-sized stick of creosote bush was more than skin deep. Sidewall damage means new tyre. New tyre means delay. For everything else there's Master Card. My main question is: Where has the bus been that she would run over a vicious bush. I hope it wasn't rabid.

One of the nice things about dualies is that one can still drive with one flat, just not so fast. Fortunately there is a truck tyre shop on the corner. Next morning drove around to the tyre shop behind Tonopah Joe's anticipating big bucks even for a used 11r22.5. They had four; the one with good tread, for only 185$ plus mounting. But Jose said he could patch the hole. Had me drive the inner up onto a three-inch channel iron then proceeded to dismount the flat tyre without needing to remove the wheel.

In the course of patching the sidewall hole he found in the middle of the tread a threaded stud of some sort, the head completely worn away, and the pointy inner end just piercing the casing. Patched that too. So I got away for 40$ instead of 200$. So far so good. And he still has four 11r22.5's.

Saturday at North Ranch, Congress AridZona

Finally actually on the road. Nice drive from Tonopah yesterday to North Ranch except for conflicting directions from two GPS devices and ominous smoke on the horizon. Old standby Delorme and new/used/refurbished Magellan have different opinions. Old bus mostly drives best on old roads so I tend to follow the Delorme with its ten year old data base. The Magellan has an interesting perspective but it is really stupid and much more difficult to programme multiple waypoint long hauls. Better than the Delorme at quick one stop jaunts and finding WallyWorld Caravanserai. Now there are three GPS devices running. The original Mr Delorme occasionally leaves me driving off its mapped route as new roads replace old. Runs on a computer with a large easy to read at a distance screen, keeps a log, easy to store routes for reuse. Ms Magellan has a fairly up to date database which includes thousands of grocery stores, fuel stops and campgrounds but does not keep a log. Then there is the venerable Sr Garmin, connected thru TinyTrak3 to VHF Ham radio which produces position reports available on the internet. If I really do get lost at least you can see where to find me.

Now up the Yarnell Hill in the cool of the morning. After breky...

Sunday At PrescottFire Tanker over Prescott.

Writing of yesterday—Moments of Joy... The bus did well climbing the long hill. Smoking out a few motorcyclists and getting hot enough. All the fans worked. Everything held together. Smoke on the horizon from the forest fire east of Prescott looks like a thunderstorm towering up in great billows. My reserved berth at the WallyWorld Caravanserai was waiting and I slipped into place at half past mid-morning. Ka1bab drove me to the top of Big Hill and lunch; from his house we watched fixed and rotary wing fire planes going to and fro between fire and airfield. After lunch and a nice visit with Gerry he returned me to The...Inn and a little shopping. I was just putting things away when a knock appeared at the door. Did Ka1bab forget something? Did I forget something? I went to answer and a grizzled old man said: I think I know you from about thirty years ago in Conway!

He was just driving past in a beat up old VW Westfallia when he espied The Cat Drag'd Inn and said to himself: I've seen that bus somewhere before. David first met me when he worked for Roger at the same time I roomed there on Brownfield Road. The Bus wasn't yet named then but in her coat of primer brown looked for sure like something the cat dragged in. It was only a matter of time before someone said so.
One precocious urchin.
Around the corner, past Watson Lake, into the Granite Dells to find Kate & Kevin. The GPS knows the way to carry the sleigh(?), or at least it thinks it does. Just as well I didn't make that last turn off s.r.89; there would have been no turning around. The gravel way pitched steeply down into a gullied wash and came to an end at some seasonal watercourse shown on the map as Granite Creek. The GPS didn't know there was no bridge. Eventually I found a paved way around, one that did have a bridge. K&K live in a little house on a knoll in the Granite Dells, surrounded by precarious hoodoos, precocious urchins, voracious noseeums, and tall trees.

This morning at dawn the temperature outside The...Inn was 51f. Dancing rabbits and singing birds. Smoke high in the sky. Not much in the way of connectivity.

In the news... Why are not these cars available for sale in the United States?

Generating MailLast time here was 2004?

Rookie geocacher at the Fox's Den.Still in the Dells. Visiting and rubbing. And reading and writing. I've been once around the bus with the rubbing compound. Like restoring an old painting—the colours sparkle! Now have to go around again with some sort of polish. And do the stainless steel sides too. What about the roof? I have to think about that.

Was the last time I went bouldering here that long ago? Hard to believe. Hard to take. I should set aside all this rubbing and go for a long walk. Well, at least several short walks. Introducing Kevin to the game of Geocaching. We walked to some and bicycled to others. The Peavine bike path makes use of an abandoned railroad right of way around the east side of Watson Lake, several miles, nice and flat, practically no grade. The section of trail north of the Watson Lake Dam contains a number of caches just for cyclists whilst a few other caches are more easily found by walking the trails through the Granite Dells.Headed south on the Peavine Trail.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (arriving)

Finished rubbing my way around the blue & yellow bus. Except for the Insect Warfare I've had a great visit with Kate&Kevin and kids in the Dells. Hikes and geocaches and bike riding and bug bites. Nasty critters. Bad enough that I am out of shape with regard to bike riding and the bike is out of shape for lack of use but I've been away from hills and insects for too long. These things are smaller than noseeums. Smaller than motes of dust in the air. They leave raised red welts that itch something ferocious. The first attack was such a surprise and it took me a while to find the bug repellent buried under spray bottles of window washer and aerosol cans of WD-40 that my legs are scabbed and scared with streaks of scratches. Nice days otherwise. Nice week even. The partial solar eclipse was visible from K&K's front porch. I found that a certain kind of blank DVD disc was just the right density to make for good viewing.

Left off a few pounds of books with K&K. Time to roll up the awning and move along.The Dragon Under The Stairs.

Buttered Cat Paradox: Combining the theories that cats always land on their feet and that toast always lands buttered side down....

Over the past week I've had several nice lunches with Ka1bab. Jerry took me to the library to see a fantastic mural and a dragon under the stairs. Then we wandered through an art show on the lawn at Court House Park. Tempting me with bronze statues and pottery. People watching. School's out.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (Ten Days Later - Departing)

My reserved berth at the WallyWorld Caravanserai was waiting and I slipped into place at half past mid-morning after taking on water from the Watson Lake camp and dumping crapper tank at Prescott PWD RV dump station. I'll sit here one night to catch my breath and see if the bug bites recede any.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (Chino Valley SafeWay)

"We Are Driving Down The Cost of Gas" so says the sign on the marquee of the Safeway here. As if "The Cost of Gas" were the name of a highway. Sort of like "The Highway to The Sun". Or "The Ten" through Phoenix. . . . o 0 O (We were driving down The Cost of Gas when out from the side of a side road came an old yellow van belching smoke and being chased by a towd with no driver. Apparent after a moment was that the towd was and not chasing, only following. The towd was smoking too, from both rear wheels. No doubt the hand brake was set but the smoke from the van obscured the towd's smoke...)

Kay, the mother of a boy from long ago in Vermont, moved away to Chino Valley and works here in the library to pay off her new pickup camper. We had a great supper at The Cat Drag'd Inn and traded all sorts of storeys for a few hours. Soon she'll be full-timing around the deserts; perhaps we'll meet again in Ajo for Winter Solstice.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (Kaibab near Williams)Theron's older than this kid.

On the road north yesterday, to Ash Fork where I baked a banana bread in a rest area for one of my not so secret admirers, then east to Williams and the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railroad. Saturday is "Steam To The Canyon" behind the GCRR's 2-8-2 Baldwin #4960. They run #4960 only a few times during the Summer so this opportunity to indulge in a ride behind the iron horse is very exciting.

Now I'm parked in one of my favourite camp spots in the Kaibab National Forest. 38f here this morning just before dawn. I'll sit here for a week.

Betty Writes of Theron's B'day Card Project: "The card count is now 675, with cards with foreign postage, standing at 20." My Thank You and Well Done! all who wrote and sent a postcard. Fun project.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (Side Trip on the GCRR)2-8-2 Baldwin #4960

Fending off buyer's remorse and fasting to make up for gluttony will be the order of the day. I'll get started right after breky. First Class was the way to go on this ride of the year: Plush reclining seats, cabin attendants, snacks and beverages, wandering minstrels... all included in the ticket cost. Taking off for Geezer Discount and National Park Pass then adding tax and my ticket cost totaled less than the posted amount. So I guess I have to be happy about that.

GCRR's 2-8-2 Baldwin #4960, built in 1923 and today fueled by salad oil (would you like a grind of fresh pepper with that?) can pull ten cars up a 3% grade. On this "Kick-Off to Summer" train there were four or five coaches, three scenic observation domes, the gedunk, two first class, and one luxury parlour car. With that load the 2-8-2 needed two helper diesels.

More than once have I looked into the Grand Canyon. A litany of looks:

1966, July at Philmont Scout Reservation.
First View Over The Rim.July 1966, my second cross-country tour (1963 VW Micro Bus with three Scouts)
In the Shade at Plateau Point.
July 1973, second southwest tour (1967 Chevy G-10 van with five Scouts). Hiding in the shade at Plateau Point.
Twice as far to go to The River.
July 2008 Denali's Summer Camp on The Road in The Cat Drag'd Inn (North Rim).
You may want to close your eyes to see this picture.
June 2012, by train, in the First Class Car.ajo in the First Class Car. Photo by GCRR photog. The top of The Bright Angel Trail.
Top of The Bright Angel Trail

Typical tourist today with a bottle of soft drink.
Today some things looked the same and some things are very different. During my 1973 adventure the group camped at Mather on the rim and spent one day hiking down the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden and Plateau Point. And back. Like hiking from the Summit of Mount Washington down to Pinkham Notch and back to the summit. That adventure was before I knew about salt tablets, before "Sports Drinks" were invented. Hyponatremia was the order of the day.  But that's another storey.

Making this visit by train was one very different approach. Between the train's arrival and departure the tourist gets only about three and a half hours on the ground; even having "been there done that" more than once, three hours was not enough time to get very far. Comparing the present view with pictures and memories of earlier excursions it seems to me that this time the air was hazy, the colours muted. Grand Canyon National Park has banned the sale of throw-away bottled water. Concessionaires sell reusable bottles/canteens and there are conspicuous Grand Canyon Spring Water refill taps located all over the place. The tourists are more and the National Park Rangers are armed.
Once in a Lifetime Transit of Venus

Wenzday Is Red Hat Day

But no food bank have I to visit whilst On The Road. Shopping however must needs still be done, that seems the way of things. Eat and dirty, shit and clean, shopping and trash. For diversion there is always another geocache. Then to write thereof. Three miles of dirt road walking, roundabout to the tree house last visited in 2010vii. And of course more trash to gather and bag. There are tent-people living in the woods nearby. A nice productive restful ten days in the breezy Kaibab forest camp. Blank DVD disc worked well for viewing the Transit of Venus. My thanks to Mike for his assistance with that project. Only hardship here in the woods of Kaibab National Forest is no DTV. Only analogue. Only four channels. Spent a lot of time watching PBS Begathon and Baseball Games. But then again I didn't come here to watch telly. Old habits... Cooking and walking. Geo-caches. People & train watching and shopping to support the local economy, visiting local brew-pubs. Grand Canyon Amber Ale: YUM!

AridZona to Nude Mexico (Standin' On The Corner Watchin'...)

To and fro several times, clambering over the wall more'n once, must have caught the eye of the guard, or the gardener. 'You're getting warm', he shouted from across the yard as I rounded the corner of the maze. I was getting warm alright; 95f in the shade and hot under the collar. Not a good day for a SkinWalker. The gardener didn't really know where 'it' was but offered a suggestion: Standing in the alcove watching all the trains go by.... I thought about looking there, I told him, but somehow felt uncomfortable with the idea. But, hey, there you go: "Reality is the leading cause of stress." as it says on the button, never was more to the point. Geocache Final Report: Found five, DNF three.

More slippery slope scary news. The Boy Scouts are to release 20,000 pages of names of 'suspected' child molesters. The operative word here is 'suspected'. The victim's names, and the informant's, will be redacted to protect (hide?) the innocent, but the 'suspected' perps? They are guilty until proven innocent don't ya know. What is this country doing? The Witch Hunt is on!

12vi18. Williams-Winona-Winslow. Standin' On The Corner...

Flagstaff for movie (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel... good movie) & breky with Laura. Snailmail in Standin’ on the Corner, Winslow AridZona. But no postcards from Winslow this time: they get Fifty¢ each for little ones now! But... But.... Over in Williams their specialty cards were 25¢ each or five for a dollar. And here we're not even in a different timezone! Dump, Fill, Fuel, Shower. Snowflake. Show-Low, where the main street is named Deuce of Clubs—good storey there.

At the Show Low Wally World Caravanserai I returned from shopping to find a crumpled note stuffed under the door handle of The Cat Drag’d Inn. Chris wrote: "...saw your bus and couldn't believe my eyes. I have a '53 Flexible pulling a 1978 Isuzu P'up Space Cab!" Fascinating! We met for breky the next morning; good time giving advice. Picked up five jars of Garlic Jelly from Carol at the Farmer's Market, where I learnt how Show Low got its name. Seems that two ranchers went in together on umpteen hundred acres of land until neither wanted to sell out to the other. They agreed to settle their impasse with a poker hand. When one was left holding the three of something he said to the other: 'Show low and you win the ranch'. The other guy drew the Deuce of Clubs and so named the ranch—which became the town—Show Low, and the main street: Deuce of  Clubs.

AridZona to Nude Mexico (The Last Leg)

On to Pie Town; three bags full, of trash, later The Cat Drag’d Inn to Nita’s on The Continental Divide. Ms La Gata is off her string and getting acquainted with the locals. I am trying to remember the names of the locals. Time to estivate in a nice hot soak. 

Anyone looking for adventure: Please Write.

Love, ajo

Be Well, Do Good, and Please Write.

Love, ajo

front page trailerI 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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Copyright © 2012, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , Tonopah AridZona 85354-0313.