Just an update while I still have access to this IP address.
My days are bright and quiet, filled with meaningful work. Chop wood and carry water. My nights are dark and still. The milky way shines in all it's glory.
I am humbled, and thankful. Deeply grateful, really.
Out in flyover country, up that steep gravel road, I am finally free. I am free of the psychic chaos of the cities. I can finally open myself enough to concentrate on making the only change that matters; the change within myself.
This blog has served me well. I've met so many interesting people, and through sharing their stories I have had a glimpse into our collective human consciousness.
By observing the interaction and reactions of myself and others, it has become apparent to me how driven by ego we all are. It is my sincere belief that by living unconsciously we are feeding the ego; the sense of separation. This is the root cause of our suffering. The Ego is the final Beast to starve.
What follows for me is a journey to the inside, and isn't something I can effectively share on a blog. There are others out there speaking the Truth more gracefully than I.
Eckhardt Tolle's book "A New Earth" is a good place to start if you feel interested in learning more about this final Beast. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
For just as the Green Valley exists inside each of us, so too does the Beast.
The final showdown approaches, my friends. I'm as ready as I'll ever get.
Follow your heart. Listen to your soul. Be kind to each other, for we are all mirrors.
We must face the darkness before we may see the dawn.
Blessings to all, may Love and Light surround you.
"So long and thanks for all the fish." (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
As requested, some pictures of the garden... Peas climbing the fence Beans and turnips The raspberry patch The blueberry patch Bee hives in the orchard, looking up toward the house Mom and Aunt by a corn bed A garden cat The squash bed The parsnip that ate Chicago View over corn beds to broccoli Beets, carrots and cucumbers growing beneath the corn Broccoli! By the way, this place is for sale. 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, daylight basement with garage and lots of storage, about 2000 square feet. Set up for passive solar heating, wood stove, on about 2 acres with year round pond. A bedroom community of Seattle, good schools, still lots of Tech industry jobs.... List price is $450K, negotiable. Feel free to e-mail or leave a comment if interested....
The Garden is a constant source of joy (and food). Beans are starting to flower, beets are getting fat, broccoli has golf ball sized heads, and zucchinni and winter squash have baby squashes.
Harvesting peas, pac choy, swiss chard, garlic, raspberries and cherries. Blueberries will be ripening soon. Corn is almost waist high. It's time for a second thinning of the carrots; the thinned are big enough to be edible.
One of the bee hives swarmed today, and there is a football sized clump of bees hanging out in one of the apple trees.
The Parsnip That Ate Chicago (it's about 2 feet taller than me) is getting fat seeds that should be dry and ready to save in a month or so. Select spinach and lettuce plants are also being allowed to seed.
The rest of my trip was very enjoyable. I visited several friends, had bonfires on the beach, and many fabulous conversations about our disconnected society and looking for ways to heal it.
My last stop was a rest area just south of the Oregon/California border. I had intended to make more miles, but the rest area was well off the highway, with soft green grass and a beautiful sparkly river. It was just so damn pleasant I had to stop for the night, even though it was early in the afternoon. Redwing blackbirds chuckled in the willows and cattails, and every so often I would catch a whiff of sea air, blowing up the river from the Pacific.
I laid on the grass near the river, and thought about my journey. It was amazing how the timing had worked out. Any time I was delayed, it worked to my advantage. I invariably arrived at friends places at the beginning of their weekends. Once I just decided to flow with it and "let it roll" everything fell into place. I thought about how thankful I was for this opportunity to see our big, beautiful country, and follow spring across it. I gave thanks for good friends, and for simply being alive and able to appreciate all the wonderful possibilities life has to offer.
Slowly I drifted into a state of bliss I can only describe as the "God experience". When one is truly, deeply grateful for one's existence, and hyper aware of the realities that surround you, you can get to a place where you feel the earth breathing, and feel that you are a part of All That Is.
It is a place so whole and loving and happy it never fails to move me to tears, though they are tears of joy.
It occurred to me that wherever my friends were on this journey, there was a green valley.
Near Santa Cruz, CA Near Tucson, AZ
There was a Green Valley park near my brother, and a Green Valley town near my mom.
The Green Valley isn't necessarily a physical place, it is inside me. It's where my community lives. That Green Valley is inside all of us. Where do you think the Eden story comes from? The Green Valley is an archetype as old as mankind.
This blog has been slipping for a while. I'm simply too busy to spend much time time on the computer. I think it's time to wrap things up. I'll still check in from time to time, and maybe be lurking in the blogosphere, but this is probably my last post. I am a different person now. This blog no longer reflects me as I currently exist. If I start a new blog I will post a link here. A few days ago, I visited a place that comes as close to the physical reality of my Green Valley as I could ever hope for.
About 1 1/2 hours drive from the nearest city, up winding country roads, across an old wooden bridge, lies a valley surrounded by wooded foothills. I worked alongside fellow gardeners and volunteers in the acre of organic vegetable gardens.
I wandered through the fields, skimming my hands across wildflowers and grasses, and felt like I could fly.
I swam in the beautiful rocky trout stream beneath the wooden bridge, and saw more food swimming around in the water than I had seen since the reef in Key West.
I hiked up to a patch of old growth trees, put my hands to them and gave thanks that they still existed, while praying for their continued existence.
I followed nicely built hippies through the shoulder high grass next to the stream.
I felt this land welcoming me home, holding me gently in its embrace like a lover.
We are each responsible for creating our reality. With every thought and word and deed we shape what we experience. I want a reality filled with love and peace and light, and I will work tirelessly toward that end.
Each of us is a creature of God, a part of the universe, and like it or not we hold the power to manifest our reality. Negative energy begets negative reality, and positive energy begets positive reality.
You can't fight the waves, but you can learn to surf. I just caught a monster wave, and I'm gonna hang on and ride it all the way in to the land of milk and honey. From here on out, I surf.
I left Arizona, and I was tired of the desert. I like places where things are green. I drove until I reached California, and breathed a deep sigh of relief to be back on the west coast. I spent the night at a rest area, with the scent of new mown alfalfa hay drifting into my dreams.
The next day I went to visit my brother in the mountains east of San Diego. After the harsh monotony of the desert, the wild beauty of the mountains was a breath of fresh air. I came to a valley at about 4,000 feet, and its untouched beauty took my breath away.
The prairie grass undulated gently in the wind, and in the distance a sweep of yellow wildflowers clothed the soft hills and drew my eye to the mountains beyond. It was so beautiful, I had to pull over and stop to cry. It finally dawned on me.
I was free.
No longer could I feel the pain and fear of the city. The sense of impending doom I had felt so strongly in Louisiana was finally gone. These mountains were sparsely populated. They just felt empty and natural and free.
After a few deep breaths, I continued to my brother's place. I stopped in the small town to ask directions, and smelled lilacs and dutch iris blooming for the first time in 10 years.
My brother has a pretty sweet deal. He lives off grid in a tiny hut, and works for an outdoor adventure camp where room and board are paid, and he gets $400 a week. He eats fabulous organic food, most of it grown in the gardens on site. Health care is 100% paid for. I didn't know that still existed. My Bro and I didn't talk for about 6 years. I thought he was an arrogant poser hippie and he thought I was a loser for abandoning my marriage and my schooling to live in Key West.
But things have a way of coming full circle, and over the years we came to the same conclusions about life and society, and share many philosophies and interests - prepping being one of those.
In true redneck fashion, we decided to hunt ground squirrels for dinner, since they frequented the compost pile. He was a bit overeager and went tromping up to said pile, promptly scaring dinner back underground.
But as we were walking back, we saw a pair of turkeys in the valley below.
"Should I get 'em, Bro? I've got a shot." The turkeys were about 80 yards off. "Well, I don't know......." The turkeys were moving farther away. "Now or never dude!" "Uhhhhh..." "I'm going for it."
At about 110 yards, I pegged the big turkey with my 10/22. He flew up, we gave chase, and ended his life with respect and gratitude.
It was a huge tom turkey. Before cleaning he was easily 35 lbs. I know, I had to haul his ass back up that hill.
After cleaning, he was still over 20lbs. It was the biggest turkey I had ever seen.
We brined him in a solution of sugar, salt, tarragon, rosemary, and pepper, then threw him on a smoker for about 6 hours. It was the tenderest, tastiest, moistest turkey I've ever had. My bro cleaned and salted the tail, and I took it as a trophy.
I stayed for a few days, having turkey quesadillas for Cinco de Mayo, and enjoying campfire circles with guitar, harmonica and song.
Making music together is something that connects us as human beings. It might not sound like the digitally mixed, pre-recorded everything of today, but it's got soul. It renews our connection.
Feeling entirely refreshed by the beautiful highland mountains, it was time to continue on my journey. My next and last big hurdle of the trip was looming ahead; getting through the Babylon known as Los Angeles.
Our poor oceans. I knew this was happening, but it seems to have gone mainstream. It was actually on Yahoo via McClatchy.
Scientists: Global warming has already changed oceans
WASHINGTON — In Washington state, oysters in some areas haven't reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing acidity of the ocean could be the cause. In the Gulf of Mexico, falling oxygen levels in the water have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere.
I found an awesome store the other day. It's called Champion Grocery, and it's an independently owned outlet store. They have all sorts of stuff for cheap, much of it organic. I got a huge bottle of shampoo for $1.65, various spices, juices and canned goods cheap. But the best part was the grain area. $25.00 for a 30# bag of organic whole Kamut (a type of wheat) $35.00 for a 50# sack of hard red winter wheat, good prices on corn, beans, rice, sugar, salt, all in large sacks. I picked up some more black beans, barley, soybeans, and buckwheat as well.
The owner was also the cashier, and insisted on loading it all into the car for me. Apparently he is doing quite well. They were sold out of 50# wheat, so he ordered it for me.
Sold out? Heh. This guy must know every prepper around here.
It was pretty sweet. I will definitely return if my meager income allows, though food is mostly covered. Next on the list is more fish hooks, needles, and a grain mill.
More posts on the journey coming soon. The laptop is being a bitch and not letting me upload photos. Time to hook up my old dinosaur PC and see if it trats me any better.
It was a relatively short drive from Lordsburg to my next stop in Arizona. I was going to visit my friend M, who curiously enough lived in Green Valley, AZ.
M is a bit strange, but a good hearted guy and a prepper through and through. Ask M anything you want to know about the fancy black guns from Russia or Romania, and you will get more information than you could possibly use.
I arrived in Green Valley early in the day, but thanks to the delay from mechanical problems, I arrived at the beginning of M's weekend.
Everything happens for a reason.
M. suggested we head for the hills and go up to Madeira canyon. At 5,400 feet it was much cooler than the valley, so we set off on the short drive up a VERY steep hill.
It was the first time the van had taken a grade this steep. She went slower, and slower....and slower..... The temperature gauge was climbing. I turned off the AC and it leveled off at an acceptable medium. I downshifted to first, and she crawled up the hill.
It was 20 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain. We parked in the shade and dipped into the cooler for some beer. We went for a walk near a little creek and saw lots of neat lizards and birds. Unfortunately I forgot my camera.
The creek was little more than a seep. It was the driest spring most people could remember. The oak trees were struggling, dropping leaves when they should be putting out new growth.
When we came back to the parking area, a very large raven was sitting on the picnic table near the van. He flew off as we approached.
We sat at the table and talked about Louisiana and how things seemed to be falling apart there. We talked about our country and how things were falling apart. We talked about the potential crash of the dollar and hyperinflation. We talked about why I left the ex, who was M's friend before I knew M.
I spoke passionately about what I was feeling when I left (covered here in earlier posts) and about how I believed that I needed to live the future I seek for humanity. I told M I was going to find community, where I could live with like minded people independently of most of the institutions and systems of civilization.
M has a place to run if TSHTF. His family has a remote location where they have been storing preps. I was happy to hear he had a good chance if things got bad quickly.
I reveled in how good it felt to be surrounded by trees and mountains again. It was a beautiful place. The camera failed to capture the majesty of the place. It was just too big and amazing to fit in a little digital box.
As the sun sank lower, we headed back to the valley. I got to take a real shower, with real pressurized hot water. Pressurized hot water is one of my favorite things about civilization.
Feeling refreshed, we sat on the patio and drank beer with M's mom. M's mom is a Christian witch. Odd as that may sound, the basic teachings of Christ and the fundamental precepts of Wicca are pretty much the same.
Most religions teach compassion and love as core values. It's such a shame something so beautiful and right could be so perverted into control systems to serve greed and ego.
We had a lively and stimulating conversation. Mom and I had a lot in common. She loved plants, and had surrounded her small patio with fountains and foliage. Despite the closeness of the neighbors she had her own private little grotto. I was very impressed with number of food plants she managed to cram into such a small space. Blueberries, strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, squashes, peppers, herbs... I saw another edible plant peeking out everywhere I looked. It was lovely. All the cacti were blooming when I was there. As is typical for me, I took lots of plant pictures.
I'm still unable to comment on my own blog, but I enjoy comments and want to respond...
Publius, - a road trip is a great bonding experience for a family. A family car trip might be easier than a family boat trip. If you drive each other crazy, at least somebody can get out and walk away. The ocean is a lot like a desert though in some ways. Maybe you could take a short road trip sometime soon...I hear the Little Rock, AR area is beautiful, and not too far from you.
Anon, - Thanks for the shower tips. Sponging under a poncho is a good idea. (I didn't have a poncho or a sponge tho..) As far as squatting in a parking lot, I did purchase the Sani-Fem female urinary device, which came in very handy while I was playing mechanic. Standing between my doors, I peed like a man into a bottle, then watered the acasia tree. I was close enough to civilization to find a potty for the serious business, but if I'm in the middle of nowhere I have no problem digging a hole and squatting. Worst come to worst, I had the cat litter box in the van which could double as a sawdust toilet.
Hermit Jim, - Thanks for the praise! I'm glad you're enjoying my story. I'll think about the book - I'd love to write for a living.
Dragon, - I know dealers are a rip off. I don't know why I didn't trust myself to fix it in the first place. That experience resulted in a new rule... Nobody works on my Beast but ME. No way would I buy a new (or newer than '93) Ford. My baby is old enough she was built in the US of A. It kills me to have to replace her solid old parts with cheaply made chinese or mexican parts and metals. Part of the reason I bought this vehicle was the injectors were easy to get to and cost $50 apiece instead of $140 apiece. Good call on my part. Poor Rube Vigor is stranded in CA with an estimate for $3,000 to change injectors and pump. What's got you tearing your hair out?
Thanks for the comments everybody. Just because I don't respond doesn't mean I don't care. It just means I'm computer illiterate and don't have enough patience to learn.
Bright and early, I headed to the auto parts store to get my new injectors. Turns out NAPA is next door to the Ford dealership where Bilbo Baggins works. I parked in the meager shade of a skimpy acasia tree in a vacant parking lot just outside the Ford dealer's back gate.
In truth, this was to be withing walking distance of NAPA in case I needed a tool or additional parts.
It was an added bonus to let the Ford mechanics watch as I installed MY OWN injectors.
After watching my hobbitlike mechanic take two hours to remove one fuel line, and nearly break my air cleaner housing in the process, there wasn't a chance in hell I'd trust them with my injectors. (Or pay $75/hr labor to someone working slower and sloppier than me)
By 9 AM, I got out my tools, opened my trusty Haynes manual, and got to work.
First I used duct tape to label all eight fuel lines with the cylinder number. Then I set about removing them. I loosened the connections to the injectors, then had to remove the lines from the injector pump, which is an octopus lookin' thing mounted to the front of the engine block.
Now I understand why people say vans are hard to work on. Most of the time I was sitting on my center console with my legs spread to either side of the engine compartment. This position is really only comfortable for about an hour.
Why didn't I keep up with doing yoga????
In the same amount of time it took Bilbo to remove one fuel line, I had them all out. The next step was to remove the fuel return lines, but that was easy, they just wiggle-pulled off. Then the injectors were unscrewed out of the block, and the new ones installed. Seating new O rings on the new injectors was probably the trickiest part of this whole operation.
I got them in and torqued down, then reinstalled the fuel supply and return lines.
There was a moment of panic when I couldn't find all eight of the little rubber caps covering the tips of the new injectors. If I installed an injector without taking the cap off I was gonna be REALLY pissed.
But I found it in a crack under the seat.
I was going to change my fuel filter at this time, but my hands were shaking and I was getting angry at the filter wrench. About this time I realized it was 5PM and I hadn't eaten anything all day. No wonder I was exhausted.
The van took forever to crank since I'd drained the fuel lines and it had vapor lock.
Rrrr, Rrrrr, Rrrrr..... My starting batteries were dying. Rrrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrr..... I jumped them off my house batteries. Rrrrr, Rrrrrr, Rrrrrr....COUGH!
"Come on baby, you can do it!"
Rrrrr...Cough, choke VAROOOMMM!!!!!!
I was at the end of my rope. Too exhausted to put the engine cover back on, I tossed it in the passenger seat and drove back to my shady parking spot.
Noting I had a couple fuel leaks, I collapsed into bed and slept through the night.
In the morning I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I was sore EVERYWHERE. I tightened the leaking fittings, replaced the engine cover and took the Beast for a spin around town.
The noise was gone.
I fixed it.
It kicked my ass, but I changed my own injectors in about 8 hours.
I fueled up and hit the road, glad to be on my way once again.
I slept soundly in the parking lot next to the post office. Maybe because I was clean for the first time in nearly a week.
I took a shower in the parking lot, and it was actually quite pleasant.
There was a conveniently abandoned concrete pad next to the vacant warehouse on the south side of the van that was hot as an oven by 1:00 PM, and earlier in the day I had filled my sun shower and set it in the desert sun to warm up.
So after it got dark I took a stealth shower.
It was quite exciting.
I opened the passenger doors on the van and stood between them for privacy. The side they opened out to faced the blank wall of the warehouse, and I was somewhat sheltered by the pines and sumac tree surrounding the van.
I was still, however, buck naked in an unfamiliar parking lot in a very small town in the desert.
I have a sun shower that pressurizes with a foot pump, so I washed my hair first while I was still partially clothed. I have a LOT of hair and it takes a while to wash. Then I stripped, soaped up and rinsed off, with just enough water to finish. The desert gets quite cool at night, so the thought of being discovered wasn't the only reason I was quick.
As I washed, the cats took advantage of the open doors to sneak out and go exploring. I saw them get out, but I was naked, what could I do?
I dried off and got dressed, and when I called the cats they came back and jumped in the van.
At 9 PM, this particular block of this little town gets quite deserted. I'm surrounded by a bank, city hall/library/police station(all in one building), the post office, a vacant lot, and an abandoned warehouse. So it's fairly secure, yet quiet at night. I did worry about getting hassled by cops for parking here, but no one seems to care. I think the occasional drifter/van dweller rolling through is not an unusual phenomenon in the little town of Lordsburg.
Well, the part came and was installed by Bilbo Baggins. The engine sounded fine with the cover off, but naturally as soon as I paid the bill and drove away with the cover in place, the knocking noise was still there.
I drove around town for a little while, listening to the noise and looking for a shady place to park. While I listened, I was asking the van to tell me what was wrong with it. My initial panicky thoughts of severe engine damage had run their course, so I took some time to really listen and think.
Whenever I attack a mechanical issue, I try to start by fixing the easiest, most obvious things first. I went through a mental checklist of my fuel system, and decided to replace my injectors. Replacing them was something I'd wanted to do before I left on my journey, but I ran out of money and time. The van has nearly 150K miles on it, so it is about time for new injectors anyway.
Fortunately, you can't throw a rock in this town without hitting an auto parts store or service center. I think there must be some kind of mechanical vortex here that causes vehicles to break down. There seems to be a plethora of churches too, so I guess you can pray you won't be ripped off too badly while you wait for your car to get fixed.
I went to NAPA and ordered new injectors for $56.00 each. (Ford wanted $75 each) At this point in my journey I had about $200.00 left, and that was to buy diesel. Fortunately the Bank of Mom came to my rescue and bought me new injectors.
The parts would arrive in the morning, so I drove to a shady place across from the post office and snuggled the van up underneath the light shade of some tall spindly pines. This was actually a really nice spot. The pines were on my passenger side, and there was a little gravel road running behind a warehouse beyond the pines. It was really as private and shaded as I could ask for in this little desert town.
I settled down to continue reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and was amazed at how much more I was getting out of this book the second time around.
For those who haven't read it, it isn't so much about motorcycles, or maintenance, although those are in there.
It's more about a Journey to find Truth. It's about questioning very fundamental assumptions about how we do things and why.
It questions the nature and foundations of rational thought itself.
It came to me that this situation I found myself in was a sort of lateral drift of my own, and probably a necessary and valuable experience.
The best way to explain about lateral drift is in Robert Pirsig's own words;
"In a laboratory situation, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything is wrong or indeterminate or is so screwed up by by unexpected results you can't make head or tail of anything, you start looking laterally. That's a word he later used to describe a growth of knowledge that doesn't move forward like an arrow in flight, but expands sideways, like an arrow enlarging in flight; or like the archer, discovering that although he has hit the bull's-eye and won the prize, his head is on the pillow and sun is coming in the window. Lateral knowledge is knowledge that's from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that's not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forces itself upon one. Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one's existing system of getting to the truth."
So with thoughts such as these, I drifted. I enjoyed this quiet time beneath the pines to read and think. I was thankful for my life and experiences so far on this journey.
When I talked to my friends, they seemed shocked to hear I was so positive about being stranded in this desert town. Life is 10% of what you experience, and 90% of your attitude towards it.
So I will enjoy this day of rest and reflection. Tomorrow will be lots of work, changing out the injectors.
I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for the men and women that have fought (and are fighting) for this country. But let's not kid ourselves. We aren't fighting for freedom anymore. We are fighting for the remaining world resources (oil) to help support our military industrial complex and a few wealthy elites.
It hasn't been about freedom for a long time.
We all need to take a good hard look at who is actually responsible for eroding our freedoms and pursuit of happiness...
I was making good time. I still had a tail wind across most of New Mexico, and I thought I could make it to Arizona before stopping for the night.
Unfortunately, about 15 miles from the AZ border near Lordsburg, NM, the engine started to make a knocking noise. It was loud enough I could hear it over the radio, which is typically cranked way up so I can hear it over the wind and engine.
I slowed down, thinking I had thrown a rod or something equally horrible.
The noise slowed down along with the engine, meaning it was definitely IN the engine.
Fortunately, the noise started about 10 seconds after I passed a billboard for a Ford Service Center exit 1 mile. How convenient. I let the van slow down even more as I approached the exit. The knocking noise got louder with acceleration, but I didn't seem to be losing power. I limped into the Ford Dealership, and was told that everyone had gone to lunch but someone would be take a look at it soon.
I opened an emergency beer and consulted my Diesel Repair manual's troubleshooting guide. Hmmm.... bad fuel? Nah. Injector pump? Gawd I hope not, and I didn't lose power so probably not. Injectors? Quite possibly. She had been giving me some trouble starting warm.
As I removed the engine cover, a little hobbit of a man came over to take a look. He peered around in the engine compartment with a flashlight and mirror. The cats were terrified by this strange person invading their van. They hid in the bowels of the cargo hold.
The mechanic determined I had a cracked fuel line which was the cause of the noise. I was doubtful, but hey, he was the Ford mechanic.
They had to order the part, it would be in tomorrow. The fuel line had been pulled out, so I couldn't drive anywhere. They offered to get me a motel. "I don't have money for a motel. Can't I just sleep in your parking lot? Think of me as free security." After consulting the Big Kahuna, I was OK'd to sleep in the parking lot of the dealership. I passed the rest of the day drinking the remainder of my emergency beers and re-reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' which is a fabulous book that was eerily appropriate to my situation. My little kitchen, with the stove set up.
Hey Publius, I found my dad's old shortwave radio...circa 1950's. I saw your comment on the archdruid report. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'd like to chat with you about vacuum tubes.... I can't even comment on your blog now...am I being blacklisted? or just paranoid? (Damn this comment form issue)
Thanks for the comments, guys. Glad to see you visiting. I've tried to respond several times, but my own comment forum won't let me comment. Bastard! I think it's some 'clearwater' program interfering with my 'post as' name. Anyway, don't think I don't read comments or don't care, I just have to figure the damn thing out. Thanks!
During the night a very strong line of thunderstorms came through. The lightning flashed almost continuously, like a strobe light. The Ranger came through the camp ground warning everyone that we were under a tornado watch. I tried not to think about a tornado coming near the van. My recent dream about it was graphic enough.
The rain was loud on the van's metal roof. At one point it hailed. I sat up for a while watching the weather, then finally fell asleep sometime after midnight when it calmed down a bit.
With the odometer at 146749, I left camp in a light rain, and forgot my stone knife on the picnic table. :( Oh well. I drove through several lines of thunderstorms as I continued west. The rain was so heavy at times people pulled over onto the shoulder of the freeway to wait it out. I plowed on at 35 mph.
I stopped to use a pay phone to check in with my 'safety net'. I hadn't had cell phone service since before camping at the river. I had to check in at least every other day. If two full days went by, somebody would start looking for me.
Eventually I passed through all the storms. They were headed east, while I was headed west. As the sun came out the land changed again.
Nothing much grows in west Texas. It is very dry. Scrubby tumbleweeds, the occasional chapparal or sagebrush; even the prickly pears didn't seem to like this area much.
This is when you start to realize exactly how big Texas is. Nothing for miles. Not a town. Not a phone. Not even an edible plant. And no cell service.
This is why I brought 15 gallons of water with me. If I broke down or got stranded out here, it could be bad.
I tried really hard not to think about that. I just drove.
About 40 miles away from El Paso, I got cell service again. The amount of relief I felt from knowing I could contact civilization shocked me a little. Have I become that dependent on this technology?
Maybe I would just make different choices if the technology wasn't available. Like choosing NOT to travel by myself through the most godforsaken stretch of desert I've seen since I'd visited Nevada.
The sun was low in the sky as I crossed into New Mexico. I stopped at the rest area that serves as the New Mexico welcome center.
As rest areas go, this one was excellent. It was set above and well back from the freeway, so noise was limited. It had beautiful desert landscaping; blooming ocotillo cactus, false bird of paradise, several varieties of yucca, and a few plants or cactus I didn't know names for. Ocotillo cactus The area was surrounded by smallish mountains that loomed in the distance, and the setting sun lit them with shades of gold, orange and purple. I put Bob cat on his harness and let him explore a bit. He drug me through some cactus before getting freaked out and hopping back into the safety of the van.
With the odometer at 147009 and relieved to be through Texas, I went to bed early, and the van and I got some much needed rest.
It was an easy drive across east Texas. It was smooth sailing through Houston, with no traffic at 10AM. Out of Houston, I had a good tail wind and found several big rigs going just the right speed for me to surf their wake. The speed limit was 70, but the van's cruising speed is between 60 and 65. No need to push my old beast harder than necessary. The cats complained a bit in the morning, but soon settled into the rhythm of the road and fell asleep.
As I traveled west, the countryside changed into gentle rolling hills populated by prickly pear, yuccas and honey locust. Everything seemed to be blooming, and a light elusive fragrance filled the air. Many sections of the road had been cut straight through the little hills, leaving artificial cliffs with colorful layers of rock. It was still early when I decided to take a rest at South Llano River State Park, near Junction, TX. My intention was to take a nap, then travel on, since I had not slept well the night before. As I crossed the little river it was a beautiful shade of turquoise. All the rivers in south Louisiana are the same shade of mud brown. I stopped at the ranger station to inquire about camping. At $17.00 it seemed a little steep, but the river and the countryside were so beautiful I decided to go for it and spend the night. I found a nice shady campsite so as not to fry the cats. The sun was still high, I had stopped early; about 2:30pm. I was quite tired, but I had to see the river. I walked through a field where wild turkeys roosted in the evening, past a pond, and through a grove of wild pecans before finding the river.
Startled turtles plopped into the water as I peered down at bass and sunfish cruising through the shallows. It had been years since I'd seen a clear rocky stream. I scrambled down the bank to test the water with my toes. It was a very pleasant temperature, and I nibbled some watercress I found growing at the water's edge.
As I walked back through the pecan grove, I mulled the extremely difficult decision I was now faced with; should I A. Take a nap B. Go fishing C. Go for a swim
Boy, life is rough.
I was tired, but I couldn't resist that river. Clear rocky streams are one of my favorite things. Since my tackle box was buried in the van I decided to go swimming.
The water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I had my goggles, so I snorkeled for a bit, watching the fish. When I dove under, I realized I could hear them. I thought only salt water fish made noise; I heard them a lot in Key West. But there was the same unmistakable popping noise in this river. It sounds like someone banging rocks together underwater. I swam to a deep area, following the noises, then dove to the bottom and startled several large bass who swam away quickly in alarm. The fish noises stopped briefly, then resumed farther upstream.
After a thrilling ride down the rapids on my belly, I sat on a driftwood log to rest and warm up in the sun. I had the place to myself. I couldn't see or hear any evidence of other humans.
It was GREAT.
I noticed a strange glassy type of rock on the riverbank, and broke it with other rocks to make a crude but very sharp stone knife. Hungry now, I wandered back to camp in a foraging mood. Wild turkeys gobbled in the distance as I cut some prickly pear pads with my new stone knife. I found some new shoots of catbriar (smilax spp.) and snipped them off too. I sauteed both veggies in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. The smilax shoots tasted like asparagus, but a bit milder. The prickly pear was good too, but turned slimy as it got cold. To get some starch and protein, I made red beans and rice with spam. Deer wandered through my campsite as I ate, competing with the jack rabbits for tender new grass.
Life was good. A pretty wildflower There's a carp in this picture, can you see him? The view from camp
After a flurry of last minute packing, I finally threw the cats in the van and left around noon on a saturday in April.
Worries lay heavy on my mind. What if I got stranded in the desert? What if I got trouble from the fuzz? What if the van got broken into?
I said a quick prayer, asking for protection from delays, breakdowns and unwanted intrusions. I took a deep breath, and rolled out.
The odometer read 145866, and I didn't expect to make many miles since I left so late. I drove past the cypress swamps, over the long bridges, past the floating camps and the petrochemical plants. I said my last goodbyes to the savage garden of Louisiana.
There are many wonderful things about that area, but there is always a feeling of something hidden and sinister; some poisonous desperation that comes perhaps from living in such an impossible place.
Goodbye, city below sea level.
30 miles east of Houston, I stopped for the night at a truck stop. There was a small area on the fringes of truck parking that was just the right size for my van. I made sure I wasn't blocking anyone or taking up too much space. I have a lot of respect for truckers, and it is a general policy of mine not to piss them off. Unfortunately, my spot was near the entrance, and happened to be downwind from both the fueling station and the truck parking. It was an uneventful night, though not exactly restful. All night long the trucks rolled in past the van, and in the morning I was shocked I hadn't been poisoned in the night by diesel fumes.
With the odometer at 146197, I got an early start and headed deeper into the Great Republic of Texas.
Hello to all out there in the blogosphere. I bet y'all thought I'd disappeared for good. The trip took longer than anticipated, and I had many grand adventures. I made it safely to washington state, and once I have an opportunity to load my pictures onto this computer, I will be making a series of posts chronicling my adventure.
I've been busy moving my few belongings into my new room, helping Mom get her garden planted, and getting the kitties adjusted to their new home and to two kitties who already live here.
A few things I learned on my trip; Sleep upwind of truck parking areas if possible, and never trust mechanics at dealerships.
Part of my intention for this blog was help shape a positive future.
I haven't been doing much of that, hung up on the van and assorted mechanical problems, and for that I apologize.
But now I am free to go in search of my Green Valley. I believe that after attitude, community is the most critical factor to survival.
I need to find my Tribe.
I want to be far away from the cities. I want to leave this culture of fear and death and poisons.
I want to greet the dawn with the birds, smell dew on the grass, and feel the plants and the forests living around me. I want to let the sun shine on my face every day, and give thanks.
I will no longer sign contracts I don't understand. I will no longer be a wage slave. I will no longer pay taxes. I will no longer buy useless crap. I will no longer be a victim of circumstance. I will not take water or food for granted. I will not take my life for granted. I will not take my freedom for granted.
I will take resposibility for my life and its direction. I will raise much of my own food. I will generate my own electricity. I will grow my own fuel. I will cultivate community with honest, hard working people. I will cultivate a local barter economy with my neighbors.
I am opting out. If I no longer feed the beast system, it will get weaker.
I'm fortunate to have found a few groups of like minded people who've already got a good start on opting out. Sorry, I can't tell where. Everybody has to find the community that is right for them. Or cultivate the community they are already a part of.
We need each other to survive successfully. And we need RESPECT to survive as a group. We need RESPECT to survive within our ecosystem.
I found the mysterious second solenoid, right over the headlight on the passenger side. After poking around with the multi-meter, I determined that the solenoid was good, but the little red and blue wire that fed it power from the switch wasn't getting power. So I bypassed it. I'm not sure if I bypassed the ignition switch or the neutral start switch (or both), but since it cranks and runs, I really don't care.
Now I have a push button ignition.
Ghetto engineering at its finest.
I still have some packing to do, and a quick fan install over the bed (it's mighty still back there) but I should be able to finish up today and be on my way tomorrow. YAY!!!
I am annoyed right now. After pulling the starter, I took it to Auto Zone and they tested it. It was bad, so I replaced it. ($150.00)
The van still won't crank. It doesn't even turn over. I think the ignition switch is still good, the glow plugs come on, and when I try to start it the dash light dims, so the starter should be getting power.
I guess I'll try the neutral-start switch next. I'm gonna have a brand new van by the time I'm done..... Though I may run out of money before I even get on the road.
The ex BF's friends came into town last night. I guess now they're my friends too, since they are Good People. Last night the conversation turned to the state of the world today. I had quite a few beers, and and my mouth decided to run away and scare the sheeple. I'm afraid I went into a bit of a rant.
I ranted about the oceans acidifying, about 260DB sonic tests for oil exploraton in the ocean (it only takes 140DB to kill a human, and sound travels much better underwater) I ranted about government oppression, and how the whole system needed to be replaced.
"This isn't right. We're not meant to live like this. We are so separate. For thousands of years we lived in communal family groups. We respected the land. It is only in the last 100 years or so that we have become so isolated. We might have all this fun, easy stuff, but there is something missing. Something fundamentally HUMAN. We are so disconnected. From each other, from our environment, from our reality. I think there is a better way. And I'm gonna go find it."
Fortunately, the West Coasters are not sheeple, and actually took my rant somewhat seriously. The friend I consider my Sister could see that I was talking about building a new paradigm. She was interested and excited.
But on the way home I got bitched out by the ex.
"They're here to have a good time! We don't need to talk about all that gloom and doom sht. Let them have a fun vacation." "You're right. I'm sorry. I know that stuff bothers you. I will make an effort not to talk about it in your presence."
He's sheeple. What a turnoff. He is so blind. So deep in denial. But I can't change that. I can only leave, and live the future I seek. What is really frustrating is that he's not stupid. He sees what is going on, and knows how wrong it is. He just chooses to ignore it. He told me once that if things ever got got THAT bad when TSHTF, he would just put one of those guns in his mouth and call it a day.
When the he said that, it was the end of the relationship.
A few years back my dad took his own life. I've made peace with it now, but it changed me. I can't let anyone matter so much it would kill me to lose them.
I can understand allowing someone to follow their own path, but I WILL NOT STAND BY AND WATCH YOU KILL YOURSELF.
I will be gone. Following my own path. I intend to survive.
I think maybe the van doesn't want to leave Louisiana. I got the vacuum pump put in, and the short test drive was great, but next time I tried to crank it up, the motor turned over, then just stopped. No click, no spinning starter noise, nothing.
I put the battery charger on it overnight, hoping it was weak batteries, but knowing better. Today I tried jumping the solenoid to crank it, and no go. The starter gear may be jammed in the ring gear, or my neutral start switch could be bad. Jumping the solenoid ought to bypass that though.
I didn't have a universal joint for my socket set, and the starter bolts are tricky enough that I need one. I got one from Auto Zone, but ran out of light before I could try it.
Maybe I just need to accept that I won't be leaving Monday. My brother was supposed to fly in tonight and keep me company on the first leg of my journey, but he is really sick and can't make it. I had to leave Monday to get him back to his work outside San Diego by the 24th. I guess I'm kind of relieved he can't come out, though I was looking forward to travelling with him.
It is frustrating to have all these issues when I'm so ready to hit the road. But I guess I'll just roll with it. Everything happens for a reason. Que sera' sera'.
It does sort of seem especially cruel to leave the ex BF at the same time his out of town friends leave. One year, after spending a wonderful holiday with my family, I went back to my house in Louisiana, and the silence was deafening. I've always been able to handle being by myself. But in winter, after feeling the warmth of my family, it was especially painful to be all alone again.
But come on, van! Work, dammit! I want to find my tribe!
The vacuum pump is installed, and once again my Beast runs like a dream. While I was under the hood, I tightened up all the belts, as they had stretched some since I'd changed them.
Then I took a test drive to Auto Zone to stock up on fluids and filters.
Conveniently, Auto Zone is in the same parking lot as Harbor Freight and Sav-a-lot. I went into Harbor Freight looking for a magnetic paper towel holder, and came out with that, a fire extinguisher, a cast iron griddle (I couldn't resist) and some pepper spray (wouldn't hurt to have some non lethal force). All useful items, but I didn't expect to spend that much.
At Sav-a-lot I got some final food preps; mostly water, noodles, snacks for the road, coffee and canned milk.
All that's left is organizing and packing the food, cooking, and 12volt gear. I have 3 large rubbermaid tubs. One for dishes/foil/cooking utensils, one for food, and one for fuel/batteries/flashlights/bug spray, etc. Snack foods and things I want easy access to (small inverter, phone charger, camera) goes in a fabric bag stashed under a front seat. Four 1gal jugs of water fit under the other seat.
My OCD (obsessive compulsive disorter) side is coming out. I made a sketch of the van cargo holds, and anything that gets packed is written on the sketch so I can find it later. The rubbermaid tubs are numbered, and each has a corresponding inventory list of contents. People have alternately laughed at me and been very impressed by this level of organization. They laugh when they hear about it, but they're very impressed when they need something and I not only have it, but know exactly where it is.
Almost done. I won't need to be in evacuation panic mode much longer....
After some good advice in the comments section, and the helpful folks over at Ford Truck Enthusiasts forum, I determined that the old pulley was toast and ordered a new one from Ford ($75.00) to go with the new vacuum pump from Auto Zone ($100.00)
The old pulley was pretty messed up after I reamed on it, beat on it, heated it with a torch, and beat on it more. It was rusty anyway. The pulley installer/puller kit I got from Harbor Freight ($14.00) didn't quite fit under the flange on the pulley to remove it. Somebody on Ford Truck Enthusiasts suggested grinding it down so it fits. Good idea, but a project for another day, now. Here is the puller kit, next to the new pump and pulley. After a 4 hour bus trip to and from the Ford dealer, I retrieved my pulley, and with a little figuring and much clamping and elbow grease got it pressed onto the pump. The Ford dealership wanted at least $70 to put it on, and I think the service guys were annoyed that I was doing my own work instead of letting them rip me off. I DON'T trust dealers. Been there, been screwed.
I'll install the pump tomorrow. That will be easy compared to the pulley ordeal. Now I have to clean the house since company is coming in for French Quarter music festival. The poor kitties know changes are afoot. They follow me around meowing at me. Fluffy kitty Cleo says, "I know you're leaving and you're gonna take me with you if I have to stay permanantly attached to your suitcase."
I am a militant hippie, an conservative liberal, a practical dreamer, an empath who is fundamentally selfish, a butch femme straight chick that likes auto repair and a multiverse of other contradictions who is still stuggling to be a responsible master of our destiny.
I use lots of nasty chemicals on this blog. It should go without saying, but it is always the responsibility of the individual to READ THE LABEL and use products safely. These are my experiences. You should always take what I say with a grain of salt. If you want real tech support, visit the product's website. They have lots more highly paid lawers than I do. I will not be held responsible for someone else's stupidity, only for my own. And for chrissakes, keep your kids and pets away from this stuff.