Life on the Open Road (April 2006 - May 2008)

The continuing saga of a single fulltime RVer who travels the western US. This is part one of my journey, from April 2006, when the blog started, to May 2008, when the blog continues at

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I have been a full-time RVer for 18 years, primarily "boondocking," camping free without hookups, in the Western US. I am connected electronically with the world via satellite TV, phone and internet. My batteries are charged solely by solar panels. I welcome your comments and emails.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Randy Gets the Story

Randy is drawn to eccentrics (like himself), and always wants to "get the story." Here on the streets of Calipatria, CA, he approaches traveling artist Robert Guesinard, age 59, originally from Pecos, Texas. Robert wanders full-time, pushing, not riding, this elaborately-packed bicycle, that has neither pedals nor seat.

Proud of his lightweight lifestyle, he explained each component: tent, water, food, clothes, flashlight, Bible, etc. He wanders the warm areas during winter and northward during summer at the rate of about 20 miles per walking day. He pitches his tent in the bushes at night.

His lifestyle is testament to a strong determination to be free of drudgery. He (and Randy) and every vagabond he ever met will do without luxuries, and comforts if need be, to preserve their freedom to wander.

He talked a blue streak, but there was something he needed to hear. Randy couldn't tell him. But then, wonder of wonders, our old friend, Chuck Januska, appeared as if by magic. He had the poem by Robert Service in his head and shared it with us.

The Men That Don't Fit In

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

Robert, the traveling artist, was stunned to silence, like God had whispered to him. Chuck and Randy gave him money and left him pleasantly glowing. "That poem's about me," he said, as we walked away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The "George Effect"

Wow! Why didn't we chase George down sooner? Being mentioned in his blog on Monday increased our number of visitors dramatically.

This gentle, but adventurous guy wields a large influence. His regular readers number in the thousands and we're pleased that so many of them clicked over and gave us a look. Thanks, George!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Two Sweet Spots

The first is Julian, CA, a tourist town in the mountains above Borrego Springs. This is Mom of Mom's Pie House, making apple pies by the thousands.

Cider apples after the big squeeze.

The second sweet spot is Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park near Borrego Springs. There are 3 surprises here. The first is the sudden appearance of water up a dry canyon. Just downstream from here it sinks into the ground. That's Barbara and Ron hiking with us.

Add a touch of water to any desert and life flourishes.

The second surprise is this beautiful oasis deep into the canyon. You'd think someone planted these palms, but they are native. Once they were everywhere, then the climate got too dry. This is one of the few surviving groves.

Bats, rats and insects find shelter in the brushy coating.

The third surprise is that Desert Bighorn Sheep are holding their own here and sometimes appear. If we had seen any, they would have looked like this!

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Found George !!

Last night, Diana noticed that George and MsTioga, the famous RV blogging team, were parked only a few miles away! So early this morning, we went to meet them in person.

George was most gracious, and we had a great conversation about our similar camping styles. We got our picture taken by Little Mavicito, and Mr. Datastorm posted our picture to their blog here. Wow!

George is a famous traveler who became famous through his travels. He solitarily wanders the continent, filming and blogging his adventures, and sharing them with a vast readership. He broadens our world, taking us with him on his odyssey. He may be living proof of the "polishing effect" of adventure.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Saga of Marshal South

We're off to climb Ghost Mountain to see the improbable homestead of Marshal and Tanya South. With us are Barbara and Ron.

The remains of their 16-year occupancy, which ended in 1948.

A cistern on the right, which we calculated to hold 500 gallons.

Randy looks down into history. Marshal South authored over 100 articles and poems for Desert Magazine during their time here.

A catch basin, one of several, carefully located to catch whatever rain fell, then transferred to the big cistern. Barbara thought it would make a great hot tub.

A trash pile - Randy says the bulk of the cans once contained condensed milk, beans and canned meat.

This nearby Agave, or Century plant caught Randy's interest. They grow for 20 years or so, then surge upward, seed, and die.

Many fantasize living a radical lifestyle. Here was a family that actually did it. Inspirational! For the full story, click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in the Desert

With over 100 WIN friends, we gathered in the desert at Borrego Springs, CA to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Servers at the ready!

Twelve turkeys, and every conceivable side dish and desert.

Randy filled up and ate 3 plates full.

Barbara and Ron are finally back from their big tour back East.

Does it get any better than this?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival

At a rest area, Randy met some nice folks enroute to Yuma's balloon festival, who gave him a balloon cookie. Later at the festival, they invited him to join the chase team. This sign by a neighboring balloonist hints at the drama of chasing.

But first, the balloon must be inflated. That pretty lady with Randy is Sally Heinrich, the flight commander; diminutive, but unequivocal.

Randy and Philip spreading out the balloon. Philip and Sally, husband and wife, alternate piloting.

Inflation in minutes!

A mighty blast of fire stands the balloon upright. Randy helps Mary and Mike, the regular crew.

Holding down, holding down, and then----

Up, up and away! A wonder just shy of a miracle. Randy took off with the chase crew. At the landing ritual, Sally briefly explained the history of hot air ballooning. Benjamin Franklin watched the first ones fly!

Randy was moved to poetry.

Balloons at Yuma

Paper thin, hummingbird light
Huge, ungainly, sunburst bright,
Colorful pod of whales in flight.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Sights of Yuma

Yuma is full of Old West history, mainly because it was the only place the Colorado River could easily be crossed. A ferry operated right here, taking Gold Rushers to California. Of course, more water flowed through in those days.

This railroad bridge, built in 1923, is still part of a very busy train line, the only place trains can cross the river for hundreds of miles. The grey bridge next to it is the original 1915 bridge that completed the Ocean to Ocean Highway, and is still in use today.

Yuma Territorial Prison is a living museum of the Old West. More than 3,000 desperadoes, including 29 women, convicted of crimes ranging from polygamy to murder, were imprisoned in rock and adobe cells here during the prison's 33-year existence between 1876 and 1909.

The Yuma Union High School occupied these buildings from 1910 to 1914. Empty cells provided free lodging for hobos riding the freights in the 1920s and sheltered many homeless families during the Great Depression.

The cells, main gate and guard tower are still standing, providing visitors with a glimpse of convict life in the Southwest a century ago.

An engraved invitation to a hanging!

Nearby is the St. Thomas Indian Mission, founded in 1780 by Padre Garces, who is represented in the statue. He was massacred by Indians in 1781. This building is a replica of the original mission, and is still an active parish.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Diana Goes Over to the "Dark Side"

Oh no!!!! But it's true! While Randy's in Phoenix, I decided to try staying in a real RV park with hookups, just to see if I was missing anything.

Each day there were 35-40 activities to choose from. It was just exhausting trying to get my money's worth!

Two of the 5 swimming pools in the park. The big topic of conversation always seemed to be which one of these two was one degree warmer than the other.

While everyone was really nice, and I had a great time, I decided that I would really rather be out in the boondocks. My neighbor's park model kind of blocked my view of this gorgeous sunset!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Three Little Pumpkins

While Randy went to Phoenix to take care of some stuff, Diana hurried back to San Diego to see her grandbabies.

This neighborhood really goes all out for Halloween! But where's the third pumpkin????

There she is!!! Molly was soooooo embarrased!

Mara is such a good big sister. Jonathan is a month old now.

Diana went to see the Mission San Diego de Alcala.

This was California's very first church, founded in 1769.

While in the area, Diana stayed at the El Cajon Elks lodge, under a great big pine tree. What? A pine tree in San Diego???

Or is it????