Becoming Unwired

04/17/03: Though I begun typing this on 4/17, it may not actually go out until after we return east where I can then connect through my normal dial-up. I can no longer access the internet under the present conditions. The cable that connects my computer to the cell phone seems to have bitten the dust. I have tried everything under the sun to make this thing work now and then over the last 2 days and have gotten no response at all - nada! zip!

When I first arrived here in January, I discovered that it was flakey (that's a technical term meaning 'sometimes works; sometimes doesn't). It would dial the number but the ISP's server (computer) at the other end would not pick up. However, I found that if I squeezed the cable at the computer end just so, I could connect; their server picked up....

News flash: Now, as I type this, totally ignoring the cable, or whatever, it is connecting all by itself and downloading 105 email messages. You know, this is what life is like.

To continue: ... so I attached a strong black metal clip (the kind with handles) to the cable, just so, allowing it to do the squeezing for me. That was in January.

Then a couple of days ago, it even quit trying to dial. I deduced that this new problem was at the cell phone end of the cable. No amount of squeezing, twisting, pushing, pulling, cussing, praying helped; it just wouldn't dial out.

Now it is dialing and it works. I don't know why.

(Note a month and a half later: the newsletter did not go out then anyhow. Due to a plethora of other pressing matters awaiting us, it was not completed until early June.)

A Sad Goodbye

Say goodbye to the van. You may recall my mentioning that I had a new engine block installed a few months prior to the trip. You may recall my driving over some lugs in the snow at a MAPCO gas station outside Nashville. That got me a new set of tires, a new oil pan, a new catalytic converter and a new muffler. It also got me an estimate for replacing the bell housing at $2400+, new motor mounts and a new gas tank estimated at $1200+ (it got banged up too). The bell housing has to be replaced because one of the motor mounts attaches to the part that broke off and without that motor mount, my new engine may drop onto the road. Of course, MAPCO still says it wasn't their fault. We'll see.

In the meantime, we don't want to drive this poor crippled friend around anymore, especially at 70 MPH. The amazing thing is that he is still running after all he endured. Eileen still goes for the mail, slowly, and I still run to Home Depot, slowly, and Mo still sleeps on his favorite bench seat as I type this. It is a sad decision, because the van has brought us through so much including our having lived in him for six months.


We have found another vehicle. The price is not much more then the cost of replacing the van's bell housing and gas tank. It is a 1992 Cadillac Deville - with leather upholstery and a gauge that tells me how my MPG is doing. It automatically dims the rear view mirror when it senses bright lights behind. It knows when to turn on the headlights and it doesn't turn them off until we are safely in the house. It has a horn that sounds like a Mack truck. It comes with a keychain control that locks all the doors and unlocks the drivers door or all the doors and it opens the trunk - all or any as I approach the vehicle. The trunk is large and has an automatic net that envelopes everything in there and keeps them from moving around. I like all that. This is cool! Well, if I don't open the door right, the horn goes nuts - that's a little disconcerting and embarrassing, but I understand the need for it.

Compared to the present state (well, any state) of our van, driving it is the ultimate in luxury and comfort. It is in mint condition, even with 123,000 miles on the odometer, obviously garaged and cared for by the previous owner. The nice thing about buying a vehicle out here, is that you don't have to worry about rust and corrosion from winter salt. The problem is that I cannot get financing here because I don't have a legitimate local street address on record; only a PO Box, a Property Description (SE 1/4 NE 1/4 NW 1/4 SEC 7 TP 1S R 7E 10 AC) and a Parcel Number (0589-192-13-0000). That's not good enough; they need a street address where they can repossess the car. By phone and fax, I have applied for a personal loan with my bank back east. The dealer tells me I have an excellent credit record, which is nice to know. He told me I'm in the "700 Club", whatever that is. Hopefully, we'll be driving in luxury within a few days, but have to wait for the long Easter weekend to go by.

...Twixt Cup And Lip

Another sad demise - you may have noticed its sudden absence from pictures - was my coffee mug. I broke it. It was after getting up from my nap, though I do not recall which day. I reached up and took it off its hook and dropped it. As simple and as tragic as that. It broke into many pieces. I was heart-broken. I tried to find some way to blame Eileen for it, but I couldn't; I did it.

I used to glue them back together with epoxy, which worked fine unless the handle snapped; a glued handle does not hold. The handle of my cobalt blue enameled ship's mug was one of the pieces laying on the floor.

I had discovered it in a Hyannis thrift shop many years ago across from where Eileen worked at the time. It was designed for travel: because of its wide bottom and narrow top, it couldn't tip over; a rubber disk glued to the bottom kept it from sliding around; a plastic lid fit inside the top so that it wouldn't splatter when driving over the bumpy dirt roads approaching my land.

I have since searched many thrift shops and some gift shops that sell coffee mugs, but to no avail. Oh, I found a few mugs that will do, but none that were just right. It does not have to be a duplicate, but it has to be right; I'll know it when I find it. I loath those straight sided white enamel things you see everywhere, usually with a silly saying on the side. Those are boringly mass produced; nobody really cared to make anything special; they just shoved them down the assembly line, like plastic spoons and styrofoam cups. They don't feel right in the hands nor at the lips. They don't even catch the eye. I will keep searching.

Half A Deck

The first phase of the deck is done, including a solid fully interconnected wooden rack under the trailer. Mo can now casually hobble to the trailer door and enter without having to leap from rock to rock. It is a redwood deck - real nice wood. The wood is a smooth multi-shaded red and off-white. It does not have the nice smell of cedar, which is what I originally planned to use, but like cedar, it can last just about forever. The hard cedar decking I planned to use would have been 1 1/4" thick, but they don't have it here. The redwood boards are only 3/4" thick, meaning I have to add more framing underneath, and being a soft wood, they scratch easily.

It only grows naturally in our Northwest, and then only as far as the fog will reach inland, though another redwood grows in China. You've probably seen that old post card of somebody driving a Model-T through a tunnel in one primordial redwood tree (also known as Sequoia). Some of those 2200 year old trees are 18 feet in diameter and 350 feet high. They are impervious to bugs and disease. Their thick bark protects them from fire. A sapling can grow 6 feet in one season. During the dinosaur age, redwoods covered the entire span of North America. What remains is protected from harvesting. Home Depot buys from planted tree farms that are certified by various environmental concerns.

Hand Sketch

Computer Sketch

Initial Framing

Initial Decking

I have treated all the wood with diluted linseed oil, which turns the white yellow. Interesting: I read recently that in some of those ancient stone castles scattered around Europe, where the stone steps are nearly worn away from centuries of foot traffic, the original wooden floors are still in excellent condition because they were regularly treated with a bees wax concoction. Well, we have plenty of honey bees here. One day I'll find their hive and rub it into my deck. Meanwhile, the oil will minimize drying and cracking.

I am now working on the other half of the deck on the door side of the trailer. The framing is just about done but a little more involved because I have to wrap it around a few boulders. That needs to be sturdy because people will leap off the boulders and I want the deck to catch them, effortlessly, without their passing through to the ground below.

God's Lawn Mowers

The landscape is lush with flowers and green. It is a delight to behold - one enormous rock garden. I previously mentioned that I was concerned about how I would mow our new lawn. Later I discovered that something was doing it for me. I assumed it was the vegetarian lizards, but finding stalks of cut grass under the van didn't fit that theory. The lizards eat on the spot, gorging to their hearts content. Then I began to notice a pair of young cottontail rabbits scampering about the place from time to time. I guess they like to lay under the warmth of the van at night and munch. (I start the van occasionally, late into the night, to keep the battery charged while using its electricity to do what I'm doing now.)

Star Gazers

We have a new neighbor. A month or two ago, I came across some people standing on the corner up the street looking over a 2.5 acre parcel of land that was posted for sale. We chatted awhile. The prospective buyers were Rick & Carol Hiestand, who make custom telescopes. Their web site is at .

With them was a lens (or mirror?) grinding specialist by the name of Steve Kennedy, who was helping them evaluate the viability of building an observatory on the land.

Now they own the land and the contractor will begin building soon - a house, a barn for their horse, a shop and an observatory. Should be interesting.

The stars and their mysteries have always fascinated me. As far as I know, I have read just about everything Isaac Asimov has written, and many others. Even now I am struggling through "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene. In fact, I have been a proud contributor to the SETI foundation for many years; not money - I contribute processing time. What that means is that as they gather mega volumes of data about the stars from various enormous antennas and telescopes around the world, they distribute that raw data to millions of small computers such as mine. When we are not using our machines, their software processes that data, sends the results back to their servers and downloads more raw data.

This is one of the reasons I love being in Joshua Tree; the night sky is spectacular. As Carol said in an email later on, "Our friend Steve Kennedy and his wife live in Sky Harbor, but he likes JT better for the night skies. We saw so many stars the other night, since it was also a new moon; it was beautiful.".

The Deadline

We are leaving here on the 25th of April. Eileen has doctor appointments and I have clients, so it has to be done. I plan to return here in November. Eileen does not - maybe a month or two later. In the mean time, it will be nice to watch and feel the east coast spring season develop into a warm lazy Cape Cod summer, as Eileen keeps me busy repairing the roof on the chicken house (no occupants) and various other odds and ends.

A month or so later:

The Final Week

Our final week there was hectic, especially with the underlying pressure of knowing we would have to leave on the 25th, regardless. I completed gluing and taping the cracks with fiberglass on the curved 2' wide plywood borders of the roof, then two coats of paint. Hopefully that will stop the leaks. I suspect that this will be an annual necessity until the entire roof is fiberglassed or I get a real roof over the trailer.

Before (distorted 4 shot composite to show splits)

During Taping (single shot)

After Painting (single shot)



That is one reason I am making the deck so sturdy, with another on the opposite side done likewise next year. It may need to support some posts holding up a heavy free-hanging gabled roof that can withstand the occasional power-wind. Since I had erected a roof in 1970, however woefully inadequate, I can probably "rebuild" it on the grandfather's clause.

Another consideration is that one day I may wish to disassemble everything and move it up to an arroyo, after the road safely reaches one. That is why almost no nails were used in the construction of the framing. The nailed decking can be popped, the screws can be removed from the framing, the posts & footings can be lifted and their holes filled so that the site can be returned to it's natural state (minus a few rocks, soil and plants).

While building the deck and repairing the roof and driving slowly "down the hill" or into town to buy supplies, I was running back and forth to the car dealer, the bank and the insurance agency. The deal was finalized on the 24th. And it was on the 24th and the morning of the 25th that I stored and packed everything and uncovered the “tent”. Given the multitude of other things one does on a day to day basis, I was banging through things a bit faster then I would have preferred, but nothing broke.

In fact, when we got in the car and went to breakfast at noon on the 25th, prior to leaving town, that was my first real chance to slow down and relax knowing that everything that mattered was done.

I did not get the deck done. Another day and it would probably have been completed. The only thing remaining is to shape and cut some short end & filler pieces. That can be done when I return.

The Eastern Corridor

The "Subject" box of this newsletter is dated 04/29/03 because that is when the visit to JT officially ended as we drove into our Cape Cod driveway late on the 29th. That trip took the four of us 4 1/2 days; a little under 2700 miles in our new 1992 Caddy, a day longer then it took Mo & I to drive east in the van 11 months prior. The only thing I can attribute that difference to was Eileen's frequent need to make additional pit stops and then extend them way beyond the time actually needed for gas, food & relief, which if timed right, can all be done at the same time.

Actually, some wisdom might have had us delay departure another 5 days. We left on a Friday. What I have deduced is that with Eileen, we should leave on a Wednesday; by myself Thursday could work. I do not like heading up that eastern corridor during everybody's rush hours; it unnerves the heck out of me. The idea is to arrive late Sunday where the east coast traffic has been relatively light and much less frantic. Even early Monday would be preferential.

The span from CA to TN on I-40 really spoils you; almost entirely long stretches of wide open spaces, nice scenery, light traffic, good roads, and plenty of room for all. Of course, that trip begins well east of Los Angeles, so LA is not included in the above equation, thank God.

When you hit Memphis, your life suddenly changes, like waking from a good night's rest to find yourself tumbling through a hurricane. Ideally, one should enter TN very early Saturday morning and get as far north as possible into VA before stopping for the night. Then W.VA-MD-PA-NJ-NY-CN-RI-MA should be a breeze on Sunday.

Memphis and Nashville have beltways to circumvent the city switchbacks and hair-turns. The beltways are nice once you get up the nerve to try them. After 2 or 3 days on one relatively straight highway, any bypass with a name change is eyed with suspicion. I tried something like that many years ago in Florida and ended up half way across the state before I could find a turn-around. (That was an arrogant state; when you stopped for coffee on the interstate, all they had was orange juice.)

It would be nice if NYC (and Providence) had beltways. You can take 287 to the Tappan Zee Bridge to get around NYC, but it still drops you down into the mayhem of I95 to New Haven - unless you miss the turn and find yourself on Route 15. That turned out to be a pretty nice stretch. It parallels I95 until it turns north above New Haven. That's where you get off at Route 34 and head south through small towns, hilly woodlands, scenic lakes and streams until you drop into New Haven. I might do that on purpose next time.

Another one I want to try, when I'm feeling rich, is the ferry from Long Island to New London, CN, safely east of New Haven. I did that many years ago to attend a nephew's wedding and it was a pleasure. However, the interstate into Long Island appears to pass dangerously close to NYC, but on a Sunday it would probably be okay. They even have a ferry to Martha's Vineyard from late May to Sept, I think, and then to the Cape, which would be wonderful if I didn't mind abandoning my car in Long Island; they don't take cars.

Of course, the converse is true: when heading west, leave very early Saturday morning and be done with TN by Sunday night.


Mapco is still saying it wasn't their fault, even though on the trip back we took a look and found that they had cut off the lugs that shredded the van. This will go to an attorney as soon as I figure out how to pay him. I'll keep you posted; will probably see some results in about 5 years or so.

So Much For Name Brands

My new dead Kodak camera is working again. A couple of weeks ago, I took it apart with my jewelers screw driver, as promised. I looked it over very carefully and could find nothing loose. So I put it back together and it has worked fine ever since. I don't know why. But this illustrates one thing I learned many decades ago; if something doesn't work, take it apart, blow on it, stare at it (with a jeweler's lens if possible) under a powerful lamp, sniff it, listen to it (a stethoscope can be useful here), gently wiggle things with your finger tip, likewise tap it here and there, shrug, and put it back together. Quite often, that's all it needs.




Wed 06/04/03 3:56 PM So glad to get one of these again. I missed them. I've had experiences like you had with the camera with machines and such. I've come up with several explanations. One is that everything has a life-force in it, is alive to some degree and every now and then wants some attention. Another is that we humans, when emotionally upset, put off such distorted or wacky vibes that it affects the machinery and electronics around us.

The new deck looks good and I was happy to read that you used the O.K. redwood. Hannah


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