Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Overland Expo West 2017 – Part 2

It must be nice to have the means to support a Unimog 4×4, in a way. I wouldn’t want one, but I still think they’re slick.

Opps! Hit the wrong button! Oh well. Enjoy!! This post is much more pictures than text, so let’s get at it! –

This Oregon Trail’R was one of many teardrop trailer variants. This one trades artistic integrity for utility. Trail-friendly, roof rack for holding an awning, solar panels, or what have you.

Land Rover debuted their reimagined Defender from a legendary boxy fossil to a thoroughly modern SUV compromised enough to appeal to the Starbucks-slurping crowd. Despite a very sophisticated and capable 4WD drivetrain, forward progress is in the eye of the beholder. (This example is not actually tipping, it’s simply revealing its street car design priority.)

Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 1

Oh no! Look at that title! Not a post about religion! Not another gag-inducing diatribe from somebody trying to shove their beliefs down my throat! I’m not gonna read it!

Relax. You don’t have to. You’re free to stop right here and go on your merry way. It’s called “free will”, and I’m all for it. Whenever I find something else that’s interesting to write about, those articles will be right here as always, posted scattershot as usual. This post is one piece of a lengthy series, each part of which will be added now and then.

But why would I even bother posting a series about my personal beliefs here on a travel blog, when the topic itself has selectively become a pariah in our culture, and merely sharing one’s faith is often now viewed the same as force-feeding? Even Dr. Francis Schaeffer, an influential 20th century theologian, noted, “Non-Christians don’t care what you believe.” I suspect that he’s right. After all, people come to this blog merely to find out how just one more ordinary guy is exploring a somewhat unconventional mobile lifestyle, and to find out what he’s seeing or discovering or thinking about along the way: information, quasi-adventures, mishaps, outlooks, and little victories. Why louse up a good thing?

The answer to that is easy. First, I won’t actually be rummaging through my beliefs as such, the doctrine and dogma of some denomination within the Christian church. That’s not what this series is for. What I personally find interesting are people’s stories – the why and what that happened in their lives to put them where they are now. When they share, I don’t necessarily want them to do nothing but recite the pithy points of their current outlook to me, but instead to describe the why of that outlook – what they observed and felt as each event unfolded and how their reaction to it shaped them. What were their thoughts, and what did they walk away with? Different people react differently to the same circumstantial blessings and hardships. It’s only then that I can properly understand any outlook that someone may present. What you’ll get in this series is as close to the “what happened” as I can muster, with my takeaways from those experiences – brilliant or faulty.

Second, the story that is behind what I believe has been shaped by my experiences, and this blog has from the start included those as well as my own reflections upon them. Just like the rest of it, this is part of what I’ve discovered along the way. After all, this hasn’t really been Read more…

One Confused Camper

The new campsite in the daytime. The “trail” is actually a camping loop.

I resupplied in Flagstaff yesterday, and on the return decided to check out the “dispersed camping corridors” in the Cononino National Forest, using the MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map). According to the map’s instructions and those on the Internet for that forest:

“When dispersed camping (or “car camping”) on the National Forest, refer to the designated camping corridors shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map. In these designated corridors, visitors may drive their vehicles up to 300 feet from the road to car camp. Also, visitors may park alongside any designated road’s edge and walk to their campsite anywhere on National Forest System lands, except where specifically prohibited as indicated in closure orders. When parking along a designated road, drivers must pull off the travelled portion of the roadway to permit the safe passage of traffic. These rules only affect motor vehicle use. Forest visitors can always hike to campsites at farther distances from the roads.”

Officially, these “corridors” seem to be the only permitted locations to camp, and doing otherwise Read more…

And Today’s Forecast…

Schnay!

The above is a shot taken at 8AM, temperature about 38 degrees. Welcome to Flagstaff in late May. It was a cold one last night, with the temperature 30 degrees at 10 PM. That’s right when the furnace ran out of propane, so I got shoes on and stepped outside to swap the Grandby’s twin 10# tanks. The 2″ of snow on the ground was a surprise, as was the 26-degree low for the night at 4 AM. I had the fabric-area window covers and extra-layer Arctic Pack buttoned up to slightly slow the cascade of cold air from the fabric. It worked pretty well, what with the furnace set to 58 and the batteries reasonably happy to power it for a lot of On Time.  (You can subtract about 10 degrees on the bed platform.) Today is forecast to reach a high of 60, and a low of 30. I’m at a little higher elevation than Flagstaff, so I might be a couple of degrees colder than that. Warmer air should be moving in tomorrow. That’s good, as a tank of propane that lasts me a couple of weeks at “normal” temperatures cuts down to 3-4 days in this kind of weather. Tomorrow is resupply day, just to avoid any chance of draining the “spare” tank before Monday noon.

Yesterday, I went on a stroll down a marked trail that’s not on any map I have. FS9123G. Since it’s not on my MVUM map, it’s not for motor travel. It was once, but is doing its best to Read more…

Overland Expo West 2017 – Part 1

Lots of couples, lots of kids. The Expo was popular, to say the least.

[Caution for those having limited cellular data plans: there are many (small) photos in this post below, so you may want to stop loading this page right now before your Internet provider slides you into the $15/Gig penalty box for overage. Text usually comes through first.]

At its new venue at the Fort Tuthill County Park, the Overland Expo West went from being hopelessly jammed in camping arrangements to being merely crowded. The dispersed camping area was not suited to especially tall or long rigs, and signups for weekend camping passes were restricted to this end. The display space was sprawling and had the raw space available for more, if need be in future years. I was surprised that Crux Offroad (an aluminum bridge/traction device maker) was not there, but each vendor has to make their own decisionaside from the nice LED ceiling lights in the Grandby, as to whether displaying at the show is worth the effort and expense. Nonetheless, a wide variety of rig and accessory outfits and individuals  showed up and showed off.

My hero! Adventure TV series producer, author, videographer and all ’round nice guy Mr. Andrew St. Pierre White hung out for awhile at the BF Goodrich trailer, since they sponsor him and always display at the Expo. I asked him a practical question about signing up for one of his online video-making classes, which dwell on techniques and why, instead of being software instructions. I also suggested that he invoice the Coca-Cola company for product placement, since he’s addicted to it and it shows in his pieces. He began to respond painfully, “I afraid I don’t represent their demographic…” before he looked at his giggling 10-year-old daughter and pointed at her saying, “…but YOU do!” She seemed delighted to possibly become Daddy’s Little Income Stream, jumping up and down.

I’ll show a mass of pictures below, which are pretty much self-explanatory. Three occurrences worthy of mention are not shown.

Overlanding videos ranging from shorts to one hour ran all day, every day in the “Theater”, which was a re-purposed auditorium with folding chairs. The fare varied from Read more…

North of Flagstaff

Ahhh, trees, sky, and mountains.

Since I was too busy to post during the Overland Expo West (including nice naps to recover from all the walking around), I’ve been looking through the scores of photos I’ve taken in order to build a post. I’m writing this from a fine campsite about 15 miles north of Flagstaff, a Coconino Forest road called Schultz Pass Road (NF 545), on the opposite side of the highway from the entrance to Sunset Crater National Monument. Getting a cellular data signal in this area can be problematic, but after my cellular data modem came up completely blank, my iPhone was surprisingly happy to provide a working hotspot. Usually, the iPhone is the gimper while the modem is the producer. Go figure.

This is a true forest area, with the campsite itself at 7,490′ elevation. The “heat wave” is apparently over, the daytime temps for the rest of this week expected to be Read more…

Sea Change or See Change?

Fire on Mingus Mountain! It’s a controlled burn, of course.

Well, it began to get just too cold on Mingus, so I repaired down to the area just south of Cottonwood, along the same spur where I’d camped before. But this time, I found a lone pull-off at the beginning of the road and managed to avoid the mass of RVers clustered together in the two main camping areas.

It’s not quite as lonesome as I’ve made it seem here, but nobody was close, so it was quiet.

Being lower in elevation, Cottonwood was experiencing highs of about 70 degrees, so life was pretty good up until Thursday, when a heat wave moved back in. But it was all for naught, since Thursday was Read more…

Buh-Bye Pano

The other day I e-biked to the very nice sightseeing viewpoint vista on Mingus Mountain, then further up to a cliff that also has a magnificent view of Cottonwood below. Officially, this was a trash disposal run and, not having slung my Pentax over my shoulder, I pressed my old iPhone 4s into service to take a shot. I’d never used the “PANO” setting, which allows you to press the shutter and sweep the camera horizontally to take in a wide panoramic shot. I’d never bothered, because on the few occasions where I wanted a wide shot, I’d simply take a series of exposures with the Pentax and then let Photoshop Elements stitch them all together. Trim off the edges to suit, and the result is a long ribbon of vista.

Once back in the camper with my bunny slippers on, I transferred the snaps to my laptop and took a look. Uh-oh.

From the Viewpoint.

This isn’t a panorama so much as a fisheye lens view. The sweep distance between the two trees is actually quite a span, and the image is much narrower than I expected for its height, being close to a widescreen movie format. No likee. It would be a fab way to shoot confined spaces like the camper interior, but outdoors, it reduces a broad, eye-filling valley to resemble a ravine.

At the cliff area, which looked like an exciting way to kill yourself if you were a stumbler, the result was much the same.

This was actually pretty close to a 90-degree sweep!

Bizarre. It looks so narrow! Why isn’t this 3 times wider than it is? However, I took a normal backup shot just in case something stunk about Plan A.

Reality. Or closer, anyway. Your eyes can pick up gradations of light & dark that the lens can’t, can cut through some haze, and read out details missing in the shot.

By the way, both of the shots above were taken from the same vantage point (I didn’t move an inch). The vertical smashing is what makes me think of a fisheye or wide-angle lens. A real pano doesn’t do that, and doesn’t smash in the width, either. It’s a little more like OmniTheater 360, but not wrapping around quite so far. A few of these, strung across, stitched edge to edge and corrected for distortion, give a very different result.

And here it is:

No, wait, here it isn’t. My ancient copy of Photoshop Elements that allowed automatically stitching together images, is on my big iMac back at Rancho Begley. But even it doesn’t work any more, the victim of a recent operating system upgrade. I don’t use panorama shots enough to make an update worthwhile, particularly not for $85, since I dropped all other interest in Elements once Aperture came along. For serious photography, Aperture is like a handmade hunting knife as opposed to Elements being more like a Leatherman utility tool. Aperture does just one thing, but does it intuitively and excellently, with a minimum of effort. Elements is a Jack of all trades if you’re willing to fight out the processes needed and not injure yourself with it. It’s like an affordable version of Photoshop, which is the icon of Feature Bloat.

Unfortunately for me, Apple discontinued Aperture some time ago, saying that its new Photos program was just as good, and was built in as an app for iPhones and iPads, too! I tried it, and it would not do, not at all. If something happens to the original photo or drive such that Photo can no longer locate it, it’s gone even when a backup or copy is lurking about somewhere. There’s a blank image there that can’t be fixed or filled. Aperture signals a problem and at least gives you a chance to locate and hook back up to the duplicate as a matter of course. It is built with the assumption that, given enough time, hard drives are going to crap out and the computer’s working environment is going to change in some way. Aperture is also designed for use on a desktop computer, and takes advantage of the extra screen real estate to make tunneling down through menus and sub-menus unnecessary. The options are still available on a laptop, but the size of the image being displayed suffers for it. In contrast, Photo seems to be designed for use on an iPhone across the board, cleaned up and Spartan to the point of not indicating what if any tasks can be done to adjust or edit photos. When you have to be told what the trick is to something, that means it’s not intuitive. Its barebones appearance on the screen is pretty much a waste on a 27″ UltraHD monitor, since it follows the iPhone mantra of hiding everything it can. Lots of Clean Screen.

Using Photo for a couple of hours made me so exasperated that I began to research some magical way of getting Aperture to work again on my updated operating system. Fortunately for me, I found it. it seems that before consigning Aperture to the trash heap, Apple made one last update to it that allowed it to keep working under the most recent “family” of OS versions. All I needed was that Aperture update. But the App Store, the program that controls what should and can be updated, was not seeing Aperture on my iMac, perhaps because I’d bought it on CD when I purchased my desktop in 2009. I contacted the App Store online, who promptly shuffled me off to Applecare Professional Support in order to get some kinda mystery code I could feed into the App Store to let it know I legitimately had Aperture and needed to download the latest update of it. The manager of Pro Support talked me through it, it worked like a charm, and Aperture started working again on my desktop. Joy!

Just before the call ended, I was asked why I preferred hoary old Aperture to the new whiz-bang Photo, and I managed to keep it down to the main two issues: what’s clean and easy on an iPhone is not the necessarily the best interface to use on a big monitor, where hiding everything away is a Bad Thing, and that when reality strikes, Photo will only ever show grey holes, where Aperture can be steered to recover what’s gone missing. That’s Professional. Off the record, Photo is for dabblers who, if they lose photos, often say, “Oh well, I wonder what they were. I’ll make more.” When photographs are an income source, losing them or making their replacement arduous costs time and therefore money. Losing the edits previously made to the original does the same.

To my surprise, the next time I yanked out my laptop, Aperture was also waiting to be installed on it, even though it had never been on it. So, I’m a happy camper. Thank you, Apple, even though you’re trading away serious usability for trendy features and appearances. You kept me able to use your “obsolete” program.

I might not again update my operating system, in order to ensure that Aperture keeps rolling. See, sooner or later, there will be a new series of OS updates that once again make programs incompatible with them. I was able to get along okay on my original operating system just fine until last year, when certain other programs really benefited from an update that could only run on a newer OS. Maybe I’ll be able to retain Aperture for a good long while further. Besides, the latest version of the operating system I’m using now has scores and scores of wonderful-I’m-sure new features and abilities that I’ll never have any use for. Between hackers and government misuse, I can’t bring myself to use The Cloud and, even if I could, don’t have even a fraction of the cellular data rental needed to use it anyway. I’ll bet using Siri to open programs and stuff is nice, but every question and command uses Internet data. I do what I do, and that’s not complex. I don’t need to “Express yourself in fun new ways. Send a huge emoji. Respond back with a heart or a thumbs-up on a friend’s message bubble. And play videos and preview links right in the conversation.” Getting my work done more quickly or simply impresses me a great deal. Using the PANO option on the iPhone is admittedly a heap easier and faster than stitching together separate photos in a third-party program, but as with many things that say they make things faster and easier, there’s a trade-off: Control over the qualities of what you get.

Risk Management Rebooted

Here’s something to consider. I found the two videos below to be supremely interesting despite their titles. That’s because “Survival Planning” is a fooler for us Norte Amerikahnskis. The interviewee, Mac Mackenney, is not a survivalist in the hopeless gloom-and-doom apocalyptic zombie warfare sense that we gravitate toward. He is a genuine adventurer who makes it his business to manage risk in inordinately risky conditions. In that way, I found his approach, his simple way of recognizing risks, sorting through them, prioritizing them, and addressing them as helpful in an everyday sense for anyone who boondocks. Technically, anyone who hits the Interstate for a decent trip might benefit as well. There are three parts to this set from Andrew White, but I have included only the two most pertinent. Each is 25-30 minutes long, so if you have limited cellular data or an overactive bladder, this might be an issue. If you could hardly care less about simple ways of looking at risk and survival, but do enjoy rather impressive campfire stories, these are also for you.

I present these to you principally because first, they helped me recognize how what I choose to do and how I go about it affects my safety, and how simple changes can decrease exposure to risk. Second, because it is easy to go on assumptions and fail to recognize the inherent risks within our choices, it is easy (at least in the Great Southwest) to wind up in what are potentially very serious situations, without realizing it. I keep stumbling over accounts of everyday people caught by surprise and unprepared for what is around them. Sometimes they get aided or rescued, and sometimes they do not. The videos below are not a “how to” so much as a wake up call to recognize potential risks in your rig setup choices as well as how you camp, and prioritize them so that the most effective  and influential solutions come first. None of this is miracle-level brilliance – it simply clears away the chaff and helps you recognize your most important needs first. If you can only see one, the meat of it is in Part 2.

Part 2:

The Americanization of Overlanding

Like a modern-day Norman Rockwell painting, this photo has every possible “Adventuring” cliche packed in. Photo Source: Expedition Portal

Travel has always been popular, but ever since the 1920s and 1930s, world travel picked up as the thing to do, if you had the funds. Hollywood glamorized it as a way that sophisticated people could take in other interesting cultures in exotic locales. Whether by ship, by train or even by aircraft in the later years, travel and stories of travel and adventure held a fascination for people unable or unwilling to take on the very considerable challenges that world travel could sometimes impose. Modified cars and trucks tended to be used only for well-funded “expeditions”.

World travel tends to be very different today, because the world is very different. One has to look hard for areas that have not been heavily Westernized such that such that the original dress, diet and culture that were once so alluring have been largely erased. With business, political, and military interests driving colonialism and the forced installation of accommodating governments, conditional foreign aid payments or covert operations where direct force would appear a little too obvious, a sense of moral and even racial superiority, plus tourism itself, where the clientele expect Western accommodations, diet and conveniences after they’ve viewed what they came to see, and individual corporations striving to change the local culture enough to accommodate them – these have all taken their toll over the years. In the end, many of the culturally-based things that people go to see are now recreations maintained just for the sake of the local tourism industry. Once authentic, they are now museum performances. Any authentic vestiges of the culture are often only viewable by making the effort to get away from the areas of even moderate development.

World travel today isn’t so much “travel” as “arrival”. Whatever romance or inconveniences the slower mode of travel included, those are gone.

World travel in the twentieth century has always been principally based on mass transportation. It still is today. You use it to get to a destination directly, then depart it, explore, and experience. What is today called overlanding is a branch of world travel that dispenses with mass transportation and substitutes getting yourself across the landscape to Point B by way of a personal vehicle. Classical overlanding is planned vehicle-based travel, typically including border crossing(s), making or providing one’s own shelter, and carrying enough food, water and fuel to be able to reach various supply points along the planned route. This not being a jaunt from motel and restaurant to motel and restaurant, self-reliance is required for both Read more…

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