RoadRunner Livery picked us up mid-afternoon on January 5. We were walking our dog outside of LAX by 1 AM EST, 10 PM Pacific time, and home within 3 hours. We got a good nights sleep and had an early breakfast at The Country Kitchen.

Pure Water:

On January 9 our new Zen Water 8 Gallon Countertop Water Filter Purifier arrived. This transparent purifier looks like a work of art inside. You can see the five different colored layers of the minerals that the water travels through as it drips slowly from the 3 gallon filler tank down into the 5 gallon dispensing tank. That begins with a porous white ceramic filter dome centered in the top tank that blocks most bacteria.

It comes with a base which I did not use, setting it instead on the marble tiles that line the wire shelves of our 55 inch high kitchen unit. The tap projects far enough out to hold our half gallon drinking water jugs underneath.

I adjusted the top two shelves 22.5 inches apart so that the 19.5 inch purifier with its lid can slide into place, never to moved again except to occasionally take it outdoors to wipe and rinse out the algae.

I fill a Walmart transparent Arrow H2O 2.5-Gal Slimline Beverage Dispenser and set it on the top shelf with its tap over the purifier, after removing the purifier's lid. I open the dispenser's tap, loosen its lid to cancel the suction affect, and leave it to fill the top tank below the wire shelf. This works perfectly.

I also permanently closed the blind and added a blackout shade on the window behind the purifier to minimize the growth of algae.

This turned out to be much nicer to work with then the one+ gallon Brita purifier that we had used previously, which was extremely difficult to disassemble and de-algify. When I left there in May, I covered the purifier with a dark plastic trash bag to keep the light and the algae out over the summer.

Rat Trip:

For a year now we had been watching our plants disappear at night. Wrapping a pot with wire mesh kind of ruins the look so we did nothing about it except to fret. I was not allowed to kill the perpetrators so on January 26 I went out and bought a Havahart live trap at Barr Hardware. I set it up with healthy cranberries as the bait.

That night I discovered that it contained a packrat. In the morning we got into the car and drove the six mile loop down, out and around the west edge of our valley and up behind the far ridge past the old Vermiculate Mine to Covington Flats. This is an uninhabited area at the western end of the Joshua Tree National Park. There we let the rat go under a bush and it ambled away. When we returned home I set the trap up again.

Late that night I could see that the cage was again inhabited. It was getting cold out so I wrapped a towel around the cage. In the morning the rat lay very still. Eileen accused me of freezing it to death, but it was alive. We took it to the same bush six miles away and let it go. It lay there showing no interest in moving even when I nudged it with a branch. I was not feeling good about myself and Eileen had become rigidly frozen with contempt and quiet anger.

We drove away. I decided to proceed along the dirt road another ten miles or so until we were winding through Black Rock Canyon and up the ridge to Eureka Peak. I thought Eileen might enjoy this because you can stand at that peak and see our valley in one direction and turn around to see Palm Springs in the other, if the sky is clear.

It was not clear and it was blowing a very cold gale force wind. Eileen was not interested in getting out of the car and in fact still not talking to me. Molly and I braved the cold wind to walk up to the peak and get a look around but we were back in the warm car within 15 minutes.

During this trip we had seen nobody else; just one vehicle going the opposite way maybe an hour before as we entered Covington Flats. Now we were descending the narrow one-way twisting drive down from the peak through the canyon. We were coming around a blind curve when I saw another car right in front of us coming fast. I swerved right and up an embankment as the other driver swerved to her right and got past me with maybe an inch to spare as the embankment forced me back down into the road behind her. Thank God that she had been moving fast because it got her by me just in time. They did not stop and neither did we as we continued on somewhat shaken but relieved.

Back home, I put the trap away. Weeks later I did see another packrat through the web camera, apparently just passing through since I have not seen any sign of packrats since.

Months later, in April I noticed that the plant in the big pot had begun to grow and bud again, so I went ahead and wrapped it with wire mesh. It has not been chewed on since (knock on wood).


On February 3 we drove six hours east to spend a few days with Eileen's son and family, Jody & Tiffany Kerr, Tanith and Jensen. We had a nice time visiting. Recently we learned that another child is on the way.

Flowers, Rings & Things:

We returned home on the 7th to find that our new eComposter had arrived by UPS. I let it sit there for awhile since I had read that the assembly would be somewhat time consuming.

On the 8th and the 10th, Eileen took a chance and bought more flowering potted plants.

On Valentine's Day the 14th, I got got her a card and took her to dinner and a movie.

That didn't really get it so a few days later I took her to Frederic H Rubel Jewelers in Laguna Beach and got her a new wedding ring.
That did it! She fell in love with me again.
As apposed to the one I had gotten her prior to March 25 of 2001, you could see this diamond without a magnifying glass. We spent a couple days there.

Also on February 14th, I had ordered a Slate 2 Tablet PC with Windows from Hewlett Packard. They sent it on their 2-day shipping plan. A week later, it had not arrived.

After numerous calls and emails, I found it at the Palm Springs FedEx office. Some nit-wit had determined that my address did not exist, so he held on to it. The Yucca Valley FedEx people had delivered to me many times in the past, but this jerk did not think to check with them.

It was delivered on February 23.

Compost Sculpture:

On February 26 I began to assemble the eComposter. This is a much better composter then the ineffective Home Depot version that we had been using. It has no moving parts to break and yet, design wise it is more sophisticated and it is nice to look at.

The main purpose for this is to continue processing the composted contents of our compost toilet.

I devoted an article to this on our main Joshua Tree page, which you might enjoy reading.


On February 29 we bought a new chair at Kelly's Future in Yucca Valley. It was the smallest Lazy Boy recliner that we could find that was fully functional as a chair and as a place for somebody to sleep. We had also considered a chair at Sodaro's Furniture in Joshua Tree, who have a real nice selection, but we settled on Kelly's. First and foremost it had to serve as a dining chair that either of us could sit on as we ate our meals, which we usually do at different times. Though smallish, it still ends up kind of overwhelming the room, especially with Molly's open door cage taking up most of the space under the table, so that the chair cannot be pushed under to get it out of the way.

Then again that pushing part was something of a problem on the loose carpet. It was also too low for the table. I added a set of casters and with a little WD-40 in each wheel. Now the chair moves around very nicely without bunching the carpet, though it does look kind of weird on wheels. However, it is real nice to sit in at night when it is cold out and I am reading. The foot board keeps my feet up where the heat is. By then Eileen is reading in bed so there is no competition for the chair, and I join her around midnight.

[ One year later: the castors used in these photos did not hold up. One at a time, they would quietly separate and fall off. After going through a second set of four, which come four to a package and use a nylon O-ring to handle the friction, I relented and replaced them with a larger 2" heavy duty ball bearing type that come two to a package. These have held up. ]

Deck Sculpture:

We also got two very nice benches for the deck online to replace the plastic Walmart benches that we had been using. One is a bare bones reasonably solid shaker style bench that fits perfectly into the narrow space against the trailer wall, and with no arms that just get in the way.

The other is a beautiful butterfly patterned lime green steel bench that any woman would love and any guy would put up with and keep his fool mouth shut.

In fact Eileen decided to use the latter in her first book, so at the last minute as I was trying to prepare for departure I found myself carrying this bench around the neighborhood setting it against various favored rocks and taking pictures at different times of day to experiment with different lighting scenarios, 51 in all. I don't think anybody saw me doing this.

I also bought a pair of 2x6 wooden trellises and some six foot steel stakes designed for hanging plants, but that served here as posts to attach the trellises to, with two long screws going through each post and into the wood. I put these at the end of the deck to provide a little more friendly privacy.

During the next wind they flopped around so much that I was afraid they would tear apart. I quickly ran a bungee cord to the shower roof but one screw did snap. After replacing the screw, I ran a 1x3 steel strap to the roof frame with a twist so that it could have some flexibility, and another two footer half way up the other edge to the 4x4 cedar lamp post nearby. That worked; it is still standing seven months later.

I got smart and went back the next day and bought two more trellises which I stored away for the day that I would need a replacement. Then Eileen got creative and strapped them to the carport frame out in front of the trailer so that it looked like a professional design job.

On March 9, I planted another Carolina Jasmine. A few weeks later I put a heavy wire mesh around it, as I had our other Jasmine, since it is listed as poisonous to the Desert Tortoise.

Photos Of Wonder:

On March 16, we attended an entertaining lecture, "The Mohave Desert: Miles Of Wonder" at the National Park's Black Rock Visitor Center, not far from where we had let the packrats go.

The speaker was David McChesney, a friend of ours, discussing some of the infinite number of first rate photos that he had taken in that wide expanse of desert from the Joshua Tree National Park to similar magical areas near Las Vegas, and in fact almost the entire southwest.

He published a fascinating book by the same name that we purchased online at over a year ago.

Eileen Goes East:

On Monday March 19 we departed for a day in Laguna.

The next morning I dropped Eileen and Molly off at LAX for their return to the east coast.

I was back home by noon.


In late October [talk about my memory: this actually occurred the year before, but I'll leave it in], I happened to notice a really nice painting on the wall of the Hospital Thrift Store in town. It was of ocean waves breaking in the sunset. I just liked to look at it. It was a nicely framed original signed by a Verne Gillespie. The price was only $5. Somebody was not thinking too clearly when they priced it. I gave the clerk $10 and told him to consider the difference a donation.

When I got home, I looked the artist up and found that Verne Lucinda McCann Gillespie (1901 - 1980) was a local artist and private art tutor who also spent a lot of her time down in Laguna Beach, our favorite haunt.
Maybe I recognized the rocks or the water or the sunset subliminally.


I have a tendency to fall in love with my coffee mugs. Each almost always turns out to be the best mug I have ever had. I don't know if this is because I have a lousy memory, or because I just like to see things that way, as long as I really like it to begin with. I have in fact retired some that just did not cut it. Anyhow, liking what I have makes life a pleasure, especially with a fresh brewed cup of Rite Aid House Blend. Really, it is an excellent cup of coffee, and I do have a good memory for that.

Unfortunately coffee mugs break, at which time I drop what I am doing and go on the big search. I don't think I have ever had any luck with the usual retail establishments. Their mugs are almost always too small and/or too plain vanilla, usually those boring cylindrical ceramic mugs that don't even feel right on the lips. I have had my best luck with thrift shops. They almost always have a great variety and every so often I find a gem.

On March 12 my old Melitta "ME2TMB Take 2 Stainless Steel Travel Mug Coffeemaker" bit the dust. I had been using it for four years and it was time, especially since I was having to re-brew my coffee three or more times a day; a real nuisance. I had if fact carefully researched and ordered a brand new Cuisinart DTC-975BKN Thermal 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker ten days before.

I pulled out the fragile French Press coffee maker that my sister had sent me a few years ago. Fortunately, I had also recently bought a Bodum Bistro 17-Ounce Mini Electric Water Kettle for Eileen's tea. That small fast electric pot would have less of a pull on the power system then the microwave. And it could boil water for the French thing.

After a few days the glass pitcher dropped and shattered. That is when I discovered that they had not used safety glass to make the thing, so we now had a thousand little slivers of sharp glass all over our carpet, under the fridge and under the shelving unit, and who knows where a few more may be hidden. After some very thorough vacuuming with my shop vac and a bright flashlight, I hope I found them all.

Now I was down to instant coffee.

So where was my new coffee maker? I had paid Amazon for shipping to get it faster. I normally do not pay for shipping since most things ship for free if you are willing to wait a week or so.

March 13 email exchanges:
11:51Van"I paid for shipping so that I could get it faster. I actually needed it yesterday - when my existing machine died."
12:02Sravan"I understand your concern ... I've issued a $9.12 refund ... may be delayed by carrier or customs or other external factors ... I'll follow up to see if you've received the package after March 17 ..."
12:15Van"Why does say 'You entered: 9102901001599004153915. Delivery status information is not available for your item via this web site ... " ?
12:39Philip"Your package was shipped March 3 by FedEx SmartPost. FedEx ... delivers to the U.S. Post Office closest to the destination. The U.S. Postal Service will make the final delivery."
03:23Van"I have spoken to FedEx. They say they never received package. But their web site says: 'ship date Mar 3'. FedEx screwed up another delivery a few weeks ago.
 I would like a replacement shipped overnight by UPS. I have had nothing but good results with UPS. If you have a problem with shipping overnight, take a look at my order history."
04:02Karthik"... lost in transit. I've created a replacement ... Order Number: 102-2524019-7614609  Estimated Delivery Date: March 19 - March 21 ... unable to change shipping method."

When I returned on March 20, after dropping Eileen and Molly off at LAX, my new coffee maker was waiting for me.

This 12 cup Cuisinart is the best coffee maker that I have ever had. After the coffee brews, the thermal pot then keeps the coffee hot all morning and the final cup late in the day is still warm. It certainly retains its heat longer then the Melitta thermal mugs did and even longer then my Braun thermal pot back east.

The Braun also has the occasional tendency to plug the cap over its filler hole so that the coffee overflows onto the counter. I keep a tray under that one now and I wiggle the little cap to make sure it is loose.


Now back to my FedEx bashing. I ordered a "Designers Fountain 2371MD-MP Sedona Motion Detector 1 Light Outdoor Wall Lamp" on March 28. When it arrived the local FedEx girl said that something was rattling inside, so we opened it up and found it broken. She took it away.

On May 4, the seller sent me an email asking why it had been returned. Apparently FedEx forgot to tell them that they had broken it, so I told them. They shipped a new one which arrived by FedEx on June 9. I was not there but Stephanie found it on the deck and moved it into the shower stall. I hope that when we return in November that I will find it in one piece.

The local FedEx people are great; they try very hard to please. It appears to be the long distance FedEx shipping personnel that have a serious attitude problem. Of course, this reflects company policies that apparently were not designed with the consumer in mind, as apposed to the almost excellent service I get from UPS and USPS.

As mentioned previously, I have sharply curtailed my online orders, preferring to go local. When I do order online, I first try to get them to ship UPS or USPS and not by FedEx. However, I am beginning to get the impression that some retailers lock themselves into some kind of contract that does not allow them to provide this option. I am doing what I can to convince Amazon and the retailers that they need to start providing their customers with a choice.

Pan-Tilt-Zoom & Water:

I spent the next 40 days installing and learning two PTZ webcams which I described in another article on our main Joshua Tree page.

I also spent that time installing and testing improvements to our hot water system which I will write about and add to our web site as soon as this journal is done.

I hosed out our compost toilet which I probably won't write about.

I left there on May 9.


Copyright © 2012, Van Blakeman