This is about three months late and for two of those months I've been feeling a nagging sense of guilt where, instead of sitting at the computer to type this, I escaped into the worlds of John D. McDonald, Robert Ludlum, Jeffery Deaver, Leon Uris, Robert Heinlein, Alistair MacLean, Dick Francis, Michael Crichton, and many more, most of which were purchased for a quarter each in one of the local thrift shops. In three months, I've read about 30 books. I haven't done that kind of reading since I got my first PC, an Apple ][, back sometime in the '80s.

In fact I never have done that kind of reading. As a teen at Solebury School in Bucks County, PA, I was told by my counselor that I was the second slowest reader in the school. I think that is about when I subliminally gave up, quit trying and a few years later, walked out. What an enormous relief that was. I later got my GED & some college, etc.

I have (more recently) learned to accept and appreciate the fact that I am slow at almost everything and therefore more thorough. To those close to me, it is a painful process to observe and if they are not sufficiently detached they tend to climb the walls waiting for my next step, or word. However, I have found that when I totally focus on what I do, oblivious to the world around me, I'll do a job that lasts whether it is writing a computer program or installing a door, even if the rest of my world is consequently falling apart around me, the door and the program probably won't.

So I don't know how I could suddenly read 30 books in 90 days.

The View

It was a comedy of situations I was escaping; not Joshua Tree. How could one need to escape this part of Joshua Tree? As I sit here two-finger typing inside my partially refurbished antique trailer and occasionally glance out the large picture window ---- wow! The view is nearly breath-taking: a low but massive brown/green mountain range, probably millions of years old, dominates the other side of this valley, perhaps a mile or so south. Other misty ranges, often snow-capped, rise to the southeast behind this range, within the Joshua Tree National Park. The downslope at the other side of the valley is peppered with homes, many new, each with its minimum two acre lot, though some up to ten acres.

On the upslope towards me, most of what I see are sculptured rock formations and high-desert vegetation with an occasional roof line here and there between. Much of the vegetation is unusually green right now due the significant rains we have had since last winter. Flowers are popping up everywhere.

Though the view from this big window is exceedingly private, there are four other homes within hearing distance, three of them on one property west of me though fairly well hidden behind a small forest of nurtured trees: Max, a young recluse in an ugly standard variety white metal trailer; Robert & Hilde Fonda in the main house; Sarah Munro in an apartment - the latter two good neighbors. Across the street and mostly hidden behind a natural mound of rock and brush is the Bob Malin & Neena Meador family.

The road to my place heads in from the west between them and is relatively smooth (well, passable). At my place, it turns south, becoming so rugged and narrow that vehicles rarely use it. This is about as far up as you can go on this side of the valley so when a vehicle does go by, you tend to stop and take a look - that is what I mean by "private".

Also here to entertain is a growing family of cottontail rabbits, numerous small lizards, and the other regulars such as ravens, blue-brown birds, finches, hummingbirds, partridge flocks, honeybees, and others. Occasionally, a coyote or two pass by. Yesterday, a surprisingly large Roadrunner came down the wash, under my window, and out along the road. About 35 years ago, my dog and I followed about 20' behind a big curly-horned mountain sheep casually passing by on the hill above.

Flying Molly

Eileen was here for two months and was more then ready to escape on the plane which she did March 3rd, with Molly our new dog. I'll return East the end of April. My younger daughter Brianny graduates from Umass Dartmouth mid-May so I want to be there for that.

Eileen had made all the arrangements for Molly - double-checked with the agent and triple-checked with the airline. Molly had all her shots and Eileen confirmed that the baggage department was pressurized and warm enough. We arrived there in plenty of time for the 9:20 p.m. flight and began to check her three items and Molly through when we were told that Molly could not go. It was projected to be 34 degrees in Boston and she would therefore require a certificate from a vet confirming that this dog could handle low temperatures. We found a 24 hour vet about an hour later but they would not be able to see Molly for another two hours - after the plane would have departed. So Eileen arranged to take the next flight out at 7:30 in the morning since the projected afternoon temperature was 50 degrees - therefore not requiring the certificate.

By the time we had retrieved the bags that had been checked, it was 11:00 p.m.. Knowing that it would be wise to return there at 5:30 a.m., we found ourselves a nice big nearly empty parking lot off of Sepulveda Blvd and
parked under the bright lights. We know that we each actually did get some sleep that night because each of us had heard the other snore. The only other complication was that Molly had not relieved herself since leaving JT mid-afternoon. We tried many times in many places, but none were suitable - until they landed at Logan and were reunited inside the airport - on a brand new red carpet. The AA rep told her not to worry about it and quickly put them into a taxi which took them down to the Cape for $125.

If you have been to last year's Joshua Tree web page, you know that Mo died in July and Missy in September. Reading past journals, you would know that they were loved and pretty much equal members of our family (equal to us), so the loss was enormous. I had determined that we should hold off a long while before we think about getting a new pet, and Eileen seemed to indicate that she agreed.

I drove out here the first of December. It took me 66 hours; a record for me. Eileen flew out on Christmas eve and I picked here up in San Diego where we R&R'd for a couple of days primarily wandering in Balboa Park and Old Town.

While here in JT, she would usually go out each day to buy groceries, window shop, take a shower, wash laundry, and etc.. Apparently, one of the places she also liked to visit was the local pound. One day, even though I had said NO to the idea many times, she arrived home with a puppy,
bought and paid for. Molly is a lab mix and she is a puppy and she does what puppies do which was done on my wooden trailer floor a number of times. Also a few corners of things are missing and some papers have been eaten. Now she has a cage which has become her "home". She likes it and so do we. This is one of those things that Eileen had to lug back with her on the plane, along with the large plastic crate that the airline required she buy, and her two bags. Well, she asked for it. I did offer to bring Molly back with me in two months, but she didn't want to be alone for that long.

Cold or Flu or ??

On the way out I stopped to visit my sister and her kids in NJ. After walking in the door, they informed me that Ginny had a cold or something so we wouldn't hug in case it was contagious. Well hello – it's already in the air!!

Shortly after I arrived here in December, I became ill. I immediately condemned Hannah & Ginny. I called it a cold and Eileen insisted it was the flu. It was a strange one. It seemed to last for nearly two months, changing symptoms as it went along. Most of the time I was basically okay, in spite of whatever symptoms; just very tired. It was a good tired, meaning I just slept a lot and that felt good. This is how I got into reading books and lazing about instead of working on projects and this newsletter/journal.

I was extremely irritable presumably because I wasn't getting anything done, so it is just as well that Eileen did not arrive until a month later. However I did blast Hannah with a nuclear winter of rage so it did not all go to waste.

I still find that I am ready to go to bed about 10 or 11. That used to be my time for typing this and I would go to bed about 1 or 2, so this hasn't been getting done. I began this particular newsletter this morning and have been at it all day, except during my nap. (Three full days later, I'm doing the online version now.)

The Power To Type

Another reason that I had not worked on this was that I could not get the generator to start. The generator is necessary to recharge the car battery after draining it while typing this in the trailer, where I cannot keep an eye on the inverter that the computer is plugged into out in the car. Got that?

Let me explain. The 5000 watt generator puts out enough voltage to run just about
anything. It could easily power a heater, stove, lights, etc. inside the trailer endlessly and we would be very comfortable. However, neither we nor our neighbors would appreciate the noise, so that is not even a consideration. I also have a 1000 watt inverter in the car. It converts the car's DC battery power into a modified household AC. An extension cord from that into the trailer powers lamps and the computer with no problem. Even a small heater or microwave would work. But this drains the car's battery. A notebook computer isn't going to use much juice except that I have it going all day for enough days to do this newsletter and process the pictures, the car battery wears out. A trickle charger plugged into the generator recharges the car battery enough to start the car. Once the car starts, it can be left running to recharge itself and power the inverter.

It is useless trying to sit in the car and type because the daylight makes the screen very difficult to see. In the trailer, there is more shadow and less glare. As it is, we did have to call AAA 3 times, and that becomes embarrassing. Eventually, after many attempts at one thing or another, I disassembled the right part of the generator's carburetor where I found a clogged needle valve. I cleaned that with a toothpick and blew it clear with a can of ether and put it back together, and this time, at last, it started. Now I can use the computer to my heart's content.

Other Excuses

An additional reason I can now type freely is that Eileen is gone - I can leave the thing sitting on the table for as long as I like without anybody requiring this space for such things as lunch and dinner or drying dishes.

My final excuse for being uncommunicative was that I simply could not go online, regardless of what I tried. I finally deduced that my PC Card cellular modem had bit the dust. You may recall that I was having trouble with it and/or its cable last year. The computer also includes a built-in winmodem which I normally never use, but it became a lifesaver when I found that I could go online with it by plugging into a neighbor's phone line. Now I take
my computer on down to Jean Davis's about once a week to get my email and check my bank & CC accounts. That is also when this one will be sent out. She likes the company. I'm not sure what I will do about the web site version of this ("The Journal" with pics), because the pictures take some time to upload; it may have to wait until I return east. We'll see. (Nope! Did it!)

The Invisible CO

About two weeks before Eileen left, we were poisoned.

Normally while awake on a cold night and then again in the morning until the sun hits the trailer, we would have two catalytic propane heaters going, a 1000 btu and a 3000 btu, and one propane lantern. It is a big enough trailer with enough minor cracks and holes to provide light ventilation and circulation. I knew we could not loose oxygen but it never dawned on me to wonder about carbon monoxide; I thought that was something that resulted from inefficient burning and these guys seemed reasonably efficient. After all, these devices were designed for use in a small tent with a vent at the top. When using the open burner propane stove to cook, we would generally open the adjacent windows to dissipate the moisture from the boiling water. This worked; little did I realize that even this arrangement was too lax. The heaters are rated safe for indoor use. At night we would leave the small one going to take the chill off. It was carefully placed where nothing could fall on it or knock it over.

On that particular morning, it was especially cold so without thinking too much about it, I left the stove going after boiling my coffee water to add a little more heat to the place. Eileen was back in the bedroom reading with the larger heater and the propane lamp going. I was at the other end of the trailer with the other heater going, sitting next to the stove reading by the large window. After awhile, as the place warmed up, I shut off the stove. I was reading a Robert Ludlum book, finishing up a chapter. I began to feel really spaced out and attributed that to the chapter having been especially powerful. In fact, just to get my head together, I stepped outdoors and breathed in deep. This seemed to help and then I began to think, "That wasn't the book; something else was making me light-headed.". I went back in and Eileen called me over; she was feeling strange. I was confused but kind of knew something was very wrong; I couldn't really think right. When she said that, I told her to get some clothes on and let's get outside. She didn't want to take time for that, but she did, and out we went. I don't recall if I had figured it out by then, but I do recall telling her to breath deep. For some reason she could not do that, so instead we went for a walk. She wanted to go down to Bill's place thinking he could help; he is a diver and a pilot, so he knows about breathing problems. He suggested carbon monoxide poisoning.

We returned to our place, got in the car and drove to the Joshua Tree Hospital. There they took a sample of her blood and eventually determined that it contained a percentage of carbon monoxide. Apparently, this leaves little room in the blood for oxygen and the body can suffocate if exposure is excessive. They put her on four hours of oxygen and she was fine after that. I chose to wait it out. Within a couple of days, I was back to normal - I think.

Everything changed after that. No way was Eileen going to allow anything propane inside the trailer. The stove was moved outdoors and we began using a rechargeable battery powered lamp even though its output was not that great. I also plugged my 100 watt utility lamp with its long cord into the car though this did use up the car battery a couple of times. Eventually, she did capitulate to allowing use of the catalytic heaters, but not at night. Regardless, she spent most of her remaining time here in the car with its heater going. It is a comfortable car.

After she left, I moved the stove back indoors, but I have two adjacent windows wide open whenever it is going. I believe the unventilated stove was the problem and the lantern probably contributed to some degree. Every fuel burning household furnace and stove produces carbon monoxide but it is also vented outdoors. (Come to think of it, I've seen a few household gas stoves that were not vented.) I am more conservative with the propane lantern and more generous with the opening of windows now and then. I used to worry about loosing valuable heat when doors or windows were open, but I have since come to realize that it doesn't make much difference because the walls and the furniture tend to retain the heat.

I have consequently abandoned my plans to continue tightening up and sealing this trailer, realizing that perhaps its natural ventilation has been something of a life saver. Online and traveling around I plan to visit a lot of RV centers to find out just what they have available for self-ventilating heat, light and cooking devices. Also, with my next $15,000 +/- (can happen), I hope to install a good solar powered system. Until I do accomplish something of that nature, Eileen will probably choose not to return here.

One final thought: the hospital printed out a document that describes carbon monoxide poisoning and its symptoms: "Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pains, irritability, tiredness, confusion, drowsiness and convulsions (seizures)". Except for the fainting and seizures, that sounds an awful lot like that cold or flu I had.

Thu 03/11/04 10:15 AM     Hi Van....     Thanks for the newsletter.     Enjoy reading them.     Sheryl and Dennis

4:13 PM     Hi Van,     Please do keep me (and therefore Allen) on your email list.

Your cold (?flu) sounds similar to mine.     I had a low grade fever mid December.     Then I got cold like symptoms that lasted for nearly a month.     The fever increased after a day of work, a little lower in the morning when I got up.     I had a terrible cough that hit the hardest when I tried to lay down.     I was dx with Bronchitis induced asthma. After about 3 and 1/2 weeks I felt pretty good and on the mend. Then I got sick again, but not as severely and it lasted just shy of two weeks.     I now feel normal again, but boy did it hang on and I was miserable!!! My GP said their was everywhere (and I think he was right) but he did agree that it was lasting longer with me than most people.

Hope to see you and Eileen when you're home     Sue

8:43 PM     Hi Van, Yes, please keep us on your list.     We love to hear of your adventures and your travelogs.

Nothing exciting going on here in the Cape Cod North East. We did grab the record for the coldest January for 80 some years! Richie and I have our wood stove, coal stove, so we were toasty. And we did take the grandkids and the dogs out on the ice a lot. Spring is slow coming, so what is new for here.     Nantucket will get its nasty spring. Check out the Weather Channel, then when the coast is clear, head East.

I read your e-mail carefully.     Now I realize that you have to, NEED TO get the CO(carbon monoxide)alarms and install them inside your vehicles! They're cheap, like $30. Richie has them in our house along with the smoke alarms.     If you burn coal, it is very important.     I would assume that with any fuel being used, vent, chimney or whatever; that you should install them anyway in a tight vehicle or house. Get the battery ones, 2 AA cells. CO poisoning is really bad, as the CO displaces the hemoglobin in the blood, and that is what carries the O2 to our cells. Bad stuff, although its a good fuel!

New puppy, Molly, dogs are wonderful.     Don't worry about an accident or 2, they just get scared and upset with traveling. Kids too, as we all know. Janie

9:36 PM     Hi Van, Thanks for the Newsletter, they are always great to read, IMO!     So, please keep 'em coming!

Hope you have an enjoyable and "healthy" stay during the remainder of your time in Joshua Tree.

If you get near a public library, you may want to check out the Philip Pullman trilogy "His Dark Materials."     My son flipped over these books in the fifth grade, practically begging me to read them.     I finally did, last year, and they really were terrific!     Bob and I used to read every Robert Ludlum book we could get our hands on.     We have about a dozen of his books here, if you ever want to borrow any to read more by him.     Ken Follet is also very good, writes espionage-type books as well.     And, one of my all-time favorite series is that of James Herriott, the country vet, starting with All Creatures Great and Small.

Well, I should get some work done before we close the Laundromat... or, maybe I'll read, instead!     LOL Take care, Cindy H.

Fri     03/12/04 06:36 AM     Quite a diary! Sure glad you're OK but you pig-headed fool, you should have gone the oxygen route too!

We can buy battery operated smoke alarms, I'll bet there are battery operated carbon monoxide monitors. I'd look into that first thing. Glad you're OK.     Ginny L.

10:27 AM Hi Van, Enjoyed your news. Glad you survived the lack of oxygen. Our motor home had all open flames contained in outside compartments. The stove was the exception but just used for cooking.

Your comments about traffic or lack of made me think of my place in VT. It was a med. size farm (100ac.+/-) at the end of a 1 mile dirt road, all up a steep hill/mtn. As it was the only house on that road, any car we heard was coming to see us or were lost. In VT. at that time (early 60s) all roads leading to a home were Town Roads. That meant that the town plowed it after all snow storms & graded it Spring & Fall. I lived there almost 30 years and loved it. Now it is ALL changed. There are eight houses on that road now. Vt is full of Flatlanders now, just like Cape Cod is full of Wash Ashores.

Nice talking with you, Henry

Sun 03/14/04 10:03 AM Received your newsletter. Pls keep us on your list. Les

Up to now, the following preceeded all of the above.
Reading it 10 years later, I realized that the mish-mash of dates and comments simply distracts from the story above, so I moved it down to here.

Thu 08/28/03 8:24 AM     From: Van To: Bill; Ron & Lauren Subject: Got water?

We are wondering how you are doing. Are you dry? Been getting Emergency Emails from the NOAA ( http://www.emergencyemail.org/ ) about flooding. Now friends are calling to say it is on the news. Van     & Eileen

1:00 PM     Hi Van, Things are ok in our valley.     I'm not aware of any damage here.     I went by your place yesterday (before it rained) and it looked ok too. I'm just glad I work at home and don't have to drive much-but I sure would like to ride my Harley; there's just too much mud. Bill

10:07 AM     My sister, Hannah, was here for a few days and mentioned that she still dreams of the days she rode her Harley.
I myself have made a point of staying away from addictions and I certainly harbor no death wishes. I feel much safer drinking beer and moving boulders around.

Sat 10/04/03 9:00 AM         Sorry about your cat and dog, its so hard to lose mans best friend. Have a good Fall! Renie

Tue 10/21/03 9:58 PM         Hi Van:     Enjoyed browsing your site.     Look forward to reading your travelogues.     Mary G.

Mon 10/27/03 6:32 AM         From: Van To: Bill ; Ron & Lauren

Are you being affected by the fires? My guess is that you can see the smoke passing way overhead but the bubble of JT air is keeping it out of the valley. How are you? Van & Eileen

11:46 AM     hey van, no smoke visible horizon to horizon-crystal clear. bill

3:35 PM     The fire WAS on the north side of Simi Valley/Moorpark, now has jumped to the south side, but is still east of our home. (We are next to the hills, on the south and west side of Simi). Rick and I are at our shop [near LA] and it is very smoky with ashes falling everywhere. I do not have a horse trailer but am sure someone will help out if we need it. I am ready to go home on a moment's notice, am keeping my faith in the great fire dept. A lot of fire and police live in our neighborhood, so that helps! Another great reason to move to Joshua Tree! Our plan is, if the house burns, take the $$ and sell the lot. I will be in touch. Love Carol

Wed 11/12/03 9:12 AM     Hi Van & Eileen--We're doing great.     Fires are out now, and we were fortunate to have only one day of bad smoke, while so many others had weeks.     Several of our friends homes were threatened, but thank God, they were all spared.     We went to clean up our old home in Ontario & the ash was still thick there, so glad we moved!

Hey, are you 2 planning a trip out here again soon? Keep in touch. Love, Lauren

Tue 11/18/03 10:09 AM     Hi, Yes. I plan to leave before daybreak on the 29th, so will probably arrive there around the 2nd of December.

Will then pick up Eileen at the San Diego airport on December 24th.

Will be accepting all invitations to dinner between those 2 dates.     Van

Note: I have altered the following info with asterii to assure online privacy from spam software, etc.

Thu 12/11/03 1:47 AM         To: tech@aplushosting.com Subject: No email

I am not receiving email sent to van*blakeman.net and I was told by a sender that they got back a “MAILER-DAEMON” [address unknown] message. Mail to any other preface does work; just not those to “van”.

A few weeks ago, in order to minimize spam, I changed this to what you call Forwarding, so it gets forwarded to my ISP, Earthlink, where most of the spam gets killed. I tested it; it worked and I still received good email sent to van*blakeman.net.

What's going on?     Van Blakeman

[Got no response, probably due to their automated system acknowledging with the one that doesn't work. However, after returning east in April, I deleted the changes I had made, reverting to the old that did work, irregardless of spam.]

Thu 12/11/03 2:23 AM         To: [everybody] Subject: Not getting email

Just letting you know that any email sent to van@blak*man.net is not reaching me, for the time being.
Any other preface will work, such as heyyou@blakem*n.net or eileen@bl*keman.net. I try to check my email nightly while here in Joshua Tree.

Also our cell number has changed. 508 736-etc is no more.
While in CA, it is 760 401-****.
In MA, it will be 508 524-****.

Yes, 2 numbers; both permanent, but while one is active the other is disabled.
That's the best deal they could give me, with more minutes then before, but at the same rate.

One main gain is that the 524 will appear local to my Falmouth clients, whereas the 736 was not local to anybody.
This can open the way to eliminating my land line phone altogether.

Thu 12/11/03 9:44 AM         Hi Eileen and Van. You did it again, got out of NE before the snow, rain, and slush.     Sunny California! Just heard from Susie that her husband's mothers house in Poway was the only one in that immediate area that was not burned in the fires this fall. It was an old Avocado farm up on a huge hill. They had just sold it and moved to Oregon. I hope the fires didn't get near your property.     Richies sister lives in San Diego, and they were OK too, I guess the big highways act as firebreaks. A very scary scene. Maybe I shouldn't complain about snow and rain,,,,,     Anyway have a good winter, and we love to get your travelogs, Merry Christmas, Janie and Richie

Thu 12/11/03 5:45 PM         Greetings from Amazon.com. We are sorry to report that we will not be able to obtain the following item from your order:     "Viking 5009040 Modem Cable for Nokia Cellular Phones"

Though we had expected to be able to send this item to you, we've since found that it is not available from any of our sources at this time. We realize this is disappointing news to hear, and we apologize for the inconvenience we have caused you.

Tue 02/10/04 5:22 AM         Hopefully this one gets to you...

Hi Dad~         I read in the news that they're predicting an earthquake for Southern California, in the desert... is that near where you are? They're giving it until September to happen, so hopefully you guys are cleared out by then. ... Love Bri

Mon 02/16/04 8:01 PM         Good to hear from you. Just read it to Eileen & Jean Davis, our 82 year old neighbor down the street, where I am downloading all 1096 emails (mostly spam). My regular modem, the one that connects through my cell phone bit the dust, so I'm borrowing Jean's phone to connect through the computer's built-in winmodem. She has real electric, phone & water.

I knew Jean and Dick back when I bought the place in 1968.

I had not heard about a forecast quake; forecasting is pretty difficult to do - though they have been saying for a long time that the BIG one is way overdue.

We had no animals and were not going to for awhile, but Eileen found "Molly" at the pound and paid the $75 before I could do anything about it. I had told Eileen to just stay the hill away from the pounds but she has never been known to do what I say.

They will be flying east on March 2.

Glad you are well. Love, Dad.

Copyright © 2004, Van Blakeman