Archive for November, 2007

Williams, AZ

 | November 26, 2007 8:54 am

26 degrees outside this morning. Stupid elevation. But it sure didn’t feel that cold in my cozy little van.

Well, at least not under the covers.

Flagstaff will probably be colder.

Lake Havasu (aka, “London Land”)

 | November 24, 2007 10:51 am

I’m sitting in the Arizona tourist information center in Lake Havasu, about 30 yards from the London Bridge.  Yesterday was the Festival of Lights.  

 I should back up.

I started out from San Diego and head out first to Anza-Borrego about a week ago.  I made it as far as Julian before it got dark, .  Had there been space for it, the eleventh commandment would have been “Thou Shalt Not Pass Through Julian, California Without Purchasing An Apple-Pastry Product.”

 So I got an Apple turnover and headed on to Anza-Borrego in the dark. 

 Anza-Borrego is the largest state park in California and I believe the largest in the continental states.  

 Turns out the desert is hot.  Even in mid November.  And it’s even hotter when you’re pushing your bike back to the visitor center because you’ve gotten a flat less than 2 miles out on the first bike ride of your big trip. 

 Alas.  At least I hadn’t gotten very far.  I had a repair kit with me, but since I was so close just headed back to the car, and reflected on what it would have been like to cross this area with Jaun Bautista de Anza in the 1700s, and the solitude of the desert, (in between turning down offers of help). 

 That night I fixed the flat, promptly pinched the tube and flattened it again and decided I would until I made it to a bike shop for a new tube and a new set of tire levers since the plastic ones I had tended to bend more than actually pry.  As it turned out I needed a new tire as well.  All that was finally accomplished here in Lake Havasu yesterday. 

 Not having a bike has put a bit of a damper on the first couple towns of my trip, but now that it’s up and running, (with hopefully no more flats for a while), I’m looking forward to seeing how my back reacts to a biking. 

 My back continues to hurt, alternating between extreme pain and general annoyance.  I’ve found that if I sleep on my back it seems to help, as does walking around for a while, but those first 20 yards are a very slow shuffle.  At some points I’m almost afraid to sit down for fear that I won’t be able to stand back up. 

 I discovered yesterday that Advil helps.  I always forget about things like that.  Still I’d rather figure out what caused it to start in the first place.  It’s been over two weeks now and I’d like to be back to normal. 

After Anza-Borrego I spent a day at the Southern end of the Salton Sea.  Both are places I’ll probably go back and explore a bit more, but the heat, (and lack of a bike) spurred me on.  Also I hadn’t quite gotten used to the fact that this is not a normal road trip.  hadn’t quite figured out how to slow down yet, (actually, I’m still working on this).  Spending my third night at a proper campground next to the Salton Sea helped with this.  (One of the great things about Anza-Borrego is that the entire park is open for boondocking.)  If I’m going to pay $17 for a campground I’m going to take advantage of it.  So I enjoyed the minor luxury of having a little plot of land all to myself and spent the evening and next morning reading and relaxing.  

The next two nights were spend outside of Quartzsite, AZ, the winter mecca of snowbirds.  In January and February it swells to nearly a million RVs in town and on the BLM lands around town.  It is a ghost of that now, but fun to wander around for a bit.  I’ll also probably be going back there at some point, but on Thursday, (Thanksgiving), I was going a bit stir crazy because nothing was happening and nothing was open.  Damn holiday!  So I headed north and ended up here in Lake Havasu. 

There is more, of course, but this is a public computer and I’ve monopolized it for long enough.  I’m going to attempt to stand up and hobble down to the London town shops to walk around for a bit and loosen my back before getting back in the car and heading out to Kingman.

Turning the van into a model of efficiency and…um…elegance.

 | November 15, 2007 2:04 am

I’ve spent the last two weeks sleeping in a “real” bed. First in the hotel in Chicago and now here at my parent’s house.

And boy, does my back hurt.

I complained to a coworker a couple months ago about how I’d slept funny and my back hurt, and her response was, “Well duh, of course it does. Look where you’re sleeping!”

But I’d already been living in the van for a couple months without trouble, so I doubt the problem was that they bed was uncomfortable. Many inches of foam, a sheepskin cover and then big fluffy blanket.

No. The problem is that sometimes I just don’t sleep well, regardless of what I’m sleeping on.

Which brings us to this week. This week I rebuilt the bed so as to get more storage space underneath it. Well, ok. Dad rebuilt the bed but I helped.

Last time I was in San Diego there was much remodeling of the van including a extra foam pad to make the bed actually lay somewhat level.

This time I wanted to get rid of the folded down seat that made up half the bed and get more storage space.

The bed’s support system.So the seat came out and replaced by a complicated support set-up for the bed. I’ll spare you the details of how this came to be, but it took pretty much the whole afternoon to figure it out. Suffice to say that the main support is approximately in the middle of the bed and the arch was cut out so that I can access the space in the back from inside the van. Extra important once I get the bike on the back and won’t be able to open up the back doors much.

Next came the surface of the bed itself, made from a nice piece of birch plywood, (the supports were made from some of the remainder of the original piece).

The prettiest bed you’ll ever see in a van

Looks shiny, doesn’t it? Dad realized that once I was done with the van he’d be getting it back. So the edges are routed and there are three coats of varnish on this beautiful bed. My favorite thing about it is the cutout in the middle of the picture. We put this in there so that the annoying island in the center of the van can actually be of some use. With this cutout of the bed not only can I actually open it up and use the meager storage space, but now I can use it as a chair instead of sitting on the bed all the time.

The old bed was low enough that this wasn’t too big a deal, but now with this island to function as a chair the bed could be raised higher up giving me even more storage space underneath.
I’m also a big fan of the rounded edges. I didn’t measure the old one, but I think this bed is a few inches longer. It’s also a bit more narrow at the front but since this is usually where my feet are it shouldn’t be a problem, and because of the way the board fits around the contours of the van this means the bed isn’t in the way when crawling from the front seats to the back. It wasn’t bad before, but this is even better.

The bed all finished. The last step for the bed was a nice new mattress. I’d been using a two inch thick piece that was slowly disintegrating on me. It was replaced by a new solid three inch of foam cut to fit the contours of the board below it.

The new bed will take a night or two of getting used to since I’m now up so much higher. Closer to the windows, which I’m not a fan of, but one other upgrade to the van was new extra-dark tinting on two of the windows. And it’s definitely made up for by all the new storage space.

Today I started filling up all that space. Of course, I don’t have enough room for all my books, (even after spending the last two years getting rid of most of them), but I’ve still managed to pack away under the bed more than I’ll actually read between now and when I come back to San Diego at the end of December.

And yes, of course all of them are completely necessary. I swear. Each and every one.

Tomorrow I finish with packing and some other last minute things then I hit the road on Friday. Hopefully nothing tomorrow takes longer than I expect.

After four months of living in the van…

 | November 8, 2007 10:10 am

…a year and a half of planning, and three years of thinking about it, I am now only a few days away from actually getting started. It’s only just started to sink in that I’m finally this close to leaving. Lately my life has been busy enough that I haven’t had time to think about the “future” even when the future was only a couple days away.

All throughout October I was focused on the KJAZZ pledge drive and really had no time for anything else. As soon as that ended it was off to Chicago for the 3rd Coast festival, and I could barely wrap my head around plans for that. (In fact, I shoveled most of the planning off to my dear, sweet friend Connie who I badgered until I convinced her to go and then proceeded to let her take charge of booking the plane tickets, the hotel room and figuring out how to get from one place to the next once in Chicago. Thanks Connie!)

Once that was done all I could think about was finishing off KJAZZ stuff so I could head down to San Diego as quickly as possible and focus on packing for my trip. And now I’m here and almost so focused on the packing that I’m forgetting what I’m packing for.

It still hasn’t sunk in that I don’t need to rush, and that if I leave a day later than I originally planned it’s perfectly fine. Suddenly I have no deadlines, no plans, and no need to be anywhere in particular.

Which is nice because I have to-do list a full page long and two columns. Even after a full year on the road I doubt I’ll be able to shake my addiction to making to do lists. I may not follow through with them once made, but I think I’ll enjoy it when the things on the list are:

  1. bike around
  2. sample regional foods
  3. meet people interview someone cool
  4. hike someplace beautiful
  5. take tons of pictures
  6. check out museums
  7. sit quietly and tat up some new piece of lace
  8. read a book or two
  9. write in journal
  10. drive somewhere new and repeat 1-9

Maybe I should change it from a “to do list” to a “could do list.”

There was a glimmer of this new reality sinking in as I approached my parents house on Tuesday night. I was listening to an interview with “The Hungry Cyclist.” He mentioned a book that had inspired him to take his bike trip around North and South America. I made a mental note to check out that book when I’m on my trip and had time. Only then did I realized that time was less than a week away. But I still don’t think it will really sink in until I’m actually on the road.

For the last two years I have been putting aside books I want to read and things I want to do, waiting for this trip and now suddenly it’s nearly upon me. I have an absurd number of books to savor, an pile of crafting supplies, hours of interesting radio shows and podcasts to listen to, and a huge continent with nearly half a billion people, many of whom, I suspect, are interesting.

And now, finally, there’s nothing between me and the road more complicated than figuring out how many books I can fit in the van.

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