Midlife Simplicity

A journey from more to less.

Category: van

Burning Man Radio Recap

cite de rencontre femme Last week I called into the Paul Duane show on K-Talk 630 as Paul was discussing his Burning Man experience this year. I’d originally called to make a brief comment, but ended up on the show for close to an hour-and-a-half, I think. You can listen to the show here:  http://www.paulduane.net/2015/09/burning-man-recap-with-steve-conlin/

Paul Duane -The Flaming Fool

cory dating Paul Duane -The Flaming Fool

singles leipzig account lУЖschen And you can view the photos that illustrate much of what was being talked about here:  http://midlifesimplicity.com/2015/09/burning-man/

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An art installation in the playa. Paul Duane interviewing participants.

http://www.airlinetest.com/?milyokrt=telefoninterview-pers%C3%B6nliches-kennenlernen&b54=62 An art installation in the playa. Paul Duane interviewing participants.

Steve Conlin - photo by Paul Duane

http://bullcitycraft.com/milnica/10611 Steve Conlin – photo by Paul Duane

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Driving on and UFOs

gagner une rencontre avec mylene farmer As I headed out of Furnace Creek, the site of the warmest temperature ever recorded on planet earth, the temperature was a steaming 47 degrees. The sky was blue, with light streaks of high-level clouds. It was 9:30 am. I was eager to get on the road for my destination was Rachael, NV.

Death Valley, CA

Death Valley, CA

Rachael is infamous for being located on the Extraterrestrial Highway aka Nevada State Route 375.  It is also famous for the Little A’Le’Inn, located a mere 28 miles from the runways at Area 51/Groom Lake.  But I still had 245 miles to drive and sights to see.

At the Northwest end of Death Valley there’s an interesting site called Scotty’s Castle. Before stopping at the visitor’s center I’d never heard of Scotty’s Castle nor had any idea of it existence. In a nut shell, in the 1920’s there was a character named Walter Scott. He was also known as Death Valley Scotty and he was a con man. He tried to get wealthy people to invest in his gold mining schemes in Death Valley. One of the investors, Albert Johnson, came to visit his fraudulent investment and feel in love with the landscape and began building a 32,000 sq. ft. home that cost around $2 million in 1922 dollars.  It has a $50,000 pipe organ.

Scotty's Castle

Scotty’s Castle

The 1942 film location of Castle in the Desert with Charlie Chan is loosely based on Scotty’s Castle.

Scotty's Grave

Scotty’s Grave

After a short stroll through the grounds of Scotty’s Castle I headed North into Nevada. Looking forward to visiting alien territory, but keeping in mind that I wanted to enjoy the trip. I was driving through a part of the country I’d never visited. I’m pretty sure I knew why now.  Western Nevada is not any more attractive than any other part of Nevada. Yes, I can look at the desolate landscape and find beauty. And it is a beauty that I truly appreciate, especially in the right light. But lets me honest, it is the same landscape for miles and miles and miles.

On the road

On the road

Between Death Valley and Rachael, I went through three towns. Beatty which I don’t even remember driving through. Then I hit a funky little town called Goldfield. As the name implies, Goldfield was a mining boom town. It is a cross between and ghost town and a main street from the 1930’s. At one point during its mining heyday 20,000 people lived in the booming town. That number is now around 440, though the remaining building look like they’re could be 1000’s. One of those 440 is known as “the world’s meanest bartenders.” I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.

World's Meanest Bartender

World’s Meanest Bartender

Haunted Hotel

Haunted Hotel

I’d found out that the Goldfield Hotel at which I’d parked the van in front of was extremely haunted. Time to get on down the road.

I fueled up in Tonopah, NV another mining town and headed east into central Nevada. After an hour or so on the treadmill of desert landscape I turned south on highway 375 toward Rachael.  The landscape hadn’t changed, but the anticipation had.

As I kid I became enthralled with the idea of aliens and UFO’s. When I was 12 years-old, there was a show on TV I recalled being named Project Blue Book. It also was known as Project U.F.O  and the stories were pulled from the USAF “Project Bluebook” files where the Air Force investigated possible UFO sightings. It was a short-lived program, but it introduced me to the idea of alien’s and I remember evaluating each story for credibility and/or ridiculousness. I was an open-minded yet critical kid.

Now through the mainly the History Channel, these stories and ideas have become a part of our national lore and I remain a skeptical but open-minded listener of tales and theories. I feel that anything sighted in the middle of Nevada is military related and has nothing to do with aliens, but this didn’t quell my enthusiasm for visiting the area. It’s a part of Americana and I wanted to visit first hand not to mention get out of the desert landscape for a few minutes.

I really hadn’t consulted a map to know where I was in relation to Area 51 but I drove south with my eyes scanning the horizon for anything interesting. I passed a few interesting geologic features of the landscape. The dark ancient lava rock contrasting against the winter brown grasses. I passed a white ford pick-up on the side of the road with a man in it scanning the range with a pair of binoculars. For a moment I thought maybe he was looking for strange activities, but then rationally thought he’s probably counting cattle. The road cuts through open-range cattle grazing. It’s common to have cows laying in the road given there is so little traffic.

Occasionally I would pass a cattle crossing sign that had been altered to have an alien head stuck on to the head of the cow or some other alteration done by folks trying to be funny. Then, after 45 minutes or so some buildings appeared on the horizon and a sign indicated I was approaching Rachael, NV.

Turns out the road I’d been traveling south was just gets you to the part of Highway 375 that is called the Extraterrestrial Highway.

Rachael, NV is the home of the Little Al’Le’inn. A destination of the curious, the silly and the obsessed. Probably the only food joint in 2 hours any direction, excluding food on the government installation to the West. It was mid-afternoon and as explained in my last entry, this meant the sun would be setting in about two hours. I hadn’t even had lunch yet.

Extraterrestrial Highway Sign

Extraterrestrial Highway Sign

After stopping at the Extraterrestrial Highway and adding a few stickers to the menagerie stuck on it by others, I headed to Little Al’Le’inn – “Earthlings Welcome”. I downed a “World Famous Alien Burger” No indication whether it was made from real aliens or not, and I was concerned about what the “Alien Sauce” might be. Best I could tell the burger was just made from cow and the sauce was pretty nondescript and ketchup based.

World Famous, not galactic famous unfortunately

World Famous, not galactic famous unfortunately

mmm alien meat

mmm alien meat

The atmosphere was all alien from the alien tequila to the collection of movies and books about aliens. There was plenty of things to look as I waited for my burger and silly souvenirs to consider. Luckily my recent purge of belongings has made me very reluctant to buy things just to buy them and I passed on the alien coffee mug, the space pen and the giant alien head bottle of tequila.

Me

Me

As I was getting ready to leave, I asked the woman behind the counter where exactly Groom Lake was and she said, as you head south it is to the west for the next 21 miles. She kindly handed me an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of photocopied paper with a map on it that oriented me and I headed out the door.

As I continued my drive south, the scenery really wasn’t any different from I’d seen all day. There was more traffic. I mean in the next 21 miles I saw at least five cars compared to the three I’d seen the previous four hours. There were a couple of dirt roads that headed west. According to the map I’d been given, they headed to Area 51. Curiosity almost got the best of me as I considered turning down one of them, but then I thought about how clean my new van was and how close to dark it was getting and I drive on.

Off in the distance I could see the dust being kicked up by a vehicle traveling down a dirt road, I estimated it was 3 miles or so down the road. Rumor has it the government puts very fine dirt on the road so that vehicles will create an easy to see plume of dust as they approach the installation.

Down that road, security awaits.

Down that road, security awaits.

As you get past the area where Area 51 in off to your left, Highway 375 makes a hard turn to the east and travelers are headed away from the military installation. As I came up to the turn I saw a hand painted sign on a huge panel of canvas hanging off of stacked hay bales that said, “Snoops Welcome” and next to it was an open field where a couple of large RV’s were parked.

I suddenly heard the sound of emails arriving on my phone and saw I had signal for the first time in four or so hours. The sun was starting to set and the cloud cover had thickened up a bit. It wasn’t threatening rain, but it was mostly cloudy.

As I headed east I made a call to a friend to check in and after a few minute conversation I hung up the phone. I glanced down, taking my eyes off the road for a moment, as I placed in the cubby hole in my dash underneath my stereo.

When I looked up I was shocked to see two bright orange lights in the sky! They were perfectly round, bright like the sun but orange and about the size of a dime on my windshield. The were spread apart about 20 degrees in my field of view and then in a matter of seconds they went off like someone had hit a light switch. Both at exactly the same time. Gone. Nothing in their place against the clouds. No subtle fade out as if entering the clouds. There, then gone. It was strange. It was fast. And for a second I didn’t believe my eyes. I grabbed my phone and turned the screen on. I moved it around to see if I’d inadvertently created a reflection of some sort. Nothing.  I don’t know what I saw, but I saw it.

Area 51 did not disappoint. My plan all along had been to do a drive by. Now I’m really curious. I have no doubt that what I saw was military. I’m not one that sees aliens everywhere, if anywhere. What remains with me is a curiosity about the area, the people and the mystery. I will venture back into this part of the country, perhaps this spring when it warms up a bit.

In another 20 minutes it was dark and I was, once again, seeking a place to stop of the night. Highway 375 gave way to Highway 93 and in about an hour I was in an RV park in Caliente, NV.

Death Valley

DEATH VALLEY, CA – I think I’ve figured out something about myself. Over the years I’ve really prided myself on getting shit done. Goal oriented would be a fair statement about my personality. Whether job performance or solving a problem, I’ve never found much satisfaction in trying yet never meeting the goal. Give me a computer with problems and I will spend every frustrating moment I have until it is solved. Just to be clear, I don’t enjoy the efforts required to solve the problem, I only enjoy it when the problem is solved. And the level of satisfaction I get from having the task resolved nowhere matches the cussing and bitching that was encountered to get to a point of resolution. So it was getting to Death Valley.

Keep in mind, this story really doesn’t differ from the many other times I’ve headed somewhere with camping as part of the goal. Before I picked up the van, I’d made plans to drive to Death Valley the first night and stay there. While at the dealership they offered me a free camp space at a local campground so that I could stay and familiarize myself with the van and ask any questions I might have the next day before hitting the road. They said that people often stay a couple of days.

Now let’s be honest, camping in Las Vegas proper just doesn’t sound fun. I mean, if I’m going to stay in Vegas, its gonna be hookers and blow. Ok, maybe gambling and strippers. Ok, maybe just blackjack and “free” cocktails. But as I sat there with my head spinning after a three-hour run-through of all of the features and critical operational requirements of this Leisure Travel Free Spirit Mercedes Sprinter Van that somehow now seemed more complicated than its name is long, I decided to make a reservation at the campground.

“Maybe insuring that you know how to dump the human waste out of the bottom of your van is a good thing to have a firm handle on,” I thought to myself. The vague recollection of Chevy Chase and Robin William’s movies kept flashing through my brain.

I left the dealer and headed out to hit the airport, Target and REI as chronicled in the previous post. Finding myself in late-afternoon traffic and a simple exit off the freeway in sight to get me headed towards Death Valley, I made a decision and headed West. I had no idea where the campground was, but the road to Death Valley was right here!

So I made a call to Daryl at Wagon Trail RV and said, “Cancel the reservation, I’m on the road. I’ll call you tomorrow if I have an issues.” It was about 3:30 in the afternoon.

Now here’s where my stubbornness, task oriented personality sometimes doesn’t serve me. Do you know what time it gets dark in Las Vegas this time of year? Well I didn’t. As I headed down the highway westward, it started to get pretty dark. By 4:40 pm it was night. I mean, dark. By 5 pm, stars out. Lights on bright. Dark.

Headed towards Death Valley, CA from Las Vegas at 4:20 pm.

Headed towards Death Valley, CA from Las Vegas at 4:20 pm.

Death Valley is about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Las Vegas and by God I was going to get there tonight. On a basically straight road with darkness as my scenery I drove and drove in my new van until I hit Furnace Creek. In my headlights I saw a sign that said “Texas Spring Campground.”

“Texas Spring, hmm, well I’m from Texas so this must be where I’m supposed to stay.”

I’m not really much a believer of signs, but it made for a good rationalization.

With that I pulled up to the automated kiosk and paid $14 for a camp spot and lumbered into the campground. It was cold and most campers were in with lights out for the evening already. It was after 7 pm and dark after all.

I saw what looked like a flat area with a picnic table, pulled in made my bed and called it a night.

This story has been such an habitual way of camping for me that I’ve become accustom to the excitement of seeing what it is going to look like when I wake up in the morning. It happened in Canyonlands, The Grand Canyon and a multitude of places where I was just car camping. I seem to have this desire to just drive and drive till I get as close to my destination possible without passing out.

The morning view from the van window at Texas Springs Campground, Death Valley, CA

The morning view from the van window at Texas Springs Campground, Death Valley, CA

“So what?” I sometimes think. The problem is that I think I’ve really stopped enjoying the journey. I know it is cliché to not enjoy the journey as you look for the destination, but like a computer problem, I will choose to suffer until the drive is completed. Blasting past interesting things in the dark.

With this van I’m gonna start enjoying the journey. I can sleep almost anywhere in it, I don’t need to stop at convince stores for a beverage or bathroom break. I carry it all with me. My dog Charlie will certainly relish the grass of a rest stop more than the concrete of a parking lot.

IMG_5132

No, there’s no need to rush. No need to drive past the things that interest me. Life should be about the journey and not the destination, as is often said. And really, I should let people who actually like working on computer problems fix them.

 

Good to know!

Good to know!

It took long enough

My simplification plan has been this:

Get out of the big house that required lots of maintenance, was too big for me and Charlie, and was expensive. The second part was to move to a low-maintenance condo where I could leave for long periods of time and not have to worry about anything. This required parting with many of my possessions. All of this has been addressed in previous posts. It has been a big change.

The third part has been to get a Sprinter van that I could travel for extended period of times when I want to and, perhaps, see if I can get to such a minimal level of possessions that I could live in it. The first two parts happened simultaneously while the third part has been an exercise in patience to the point of becoming a running joke for several of my friends.

Well the joke is over!

It was not-so-bright but early when I boarded the red, white and blue Frontrunner car to head to the airport last Wednesday.  After 45-minute train ride with the morning commuters and a switch to Trax in Salt Lake for another 15 minutes, I was at Salt Lake City International Airport.

A quick check of my backpack with TSA and a rush down the terminal found my plane already boarding for the short flight to Las Vegas.

Leaving Ogden by train.

Leaving Ogden by train at 6:07 am.

I arrived in Las Vegas after enduring a crowded flight that required me to be in a center seat. After exiting the plane I headed for baggage claim only to find my backpack hadn’t arrived. I was politely informed by the attendant that it would come on the next flight about four hours later and that I could come back and pick it up or they could deliver it to my hotel or home. I explained I was actually heading to pick-up a vehicle and would make it back later in the day. She politely explained I could just park in Express parking and run in and get it when I returned.

With a plan, I headed out to passenger pick-up and waited to be picked up by Daryl from Wagon Trail RV. After about 30 minutes Daryl who’d I’d only met once back in March, drove up and we took off to the dealership. It was about 9:15 am and the staff of the dealership was just getting going for the day. The coffee was just being brewed, people where just setting into their desks and I was probably the first customer to walk in.

After taking a phone call, I was ready to see what I’d been waiting for all this time.

2015 Free Spirit by Leisure Travel vans.

2015 Free Spirit by Leisure Travel vans.

This van has been a long time coming. Delayed in production due to availability of the Mercedes chassis the arrival was thee months after what I’d originally planned for. Now after the formality of paperwork, I was ready to be educated on how everything actually worked!

After three hours of head-spinning instructions on everything from how to operate the stereo/navigation system to how to dump my human waste I was given the keys and headed for the airport to get my bag.

So just for the record, I don’t consider myself a stupid person. I try to think of obstacles I’m going to have along the way and navigate around them. With that attitude, before I left for the airport, I looked on the airport website to check and make sure that there were not any height issues that would prevent me from getting into the parking lot so I could pick up my backpack that now would have been sitting there for a couple of hours.  At nine feet, nine inches tall, this van will have problems going in some structures but according to the website the airport wouldn’t be one of them-vehicles up to 13’5″  were welcome.

Off I went into Las Vegas in a 10-foot tall and 23- foot long vehicle where upon total panic set in. This van was huge compared to anything I’d driven in the past and traffic was thick. For the next five miles I worked by way through traffic, learning when I could make lane changes and getting a baptism-by-fire by missing the turn-off to the airport and being routed in the heart of the Las Vegas strip. At least by now I’d adjusted to the size and was getting around pretty good.

After a 15-minute detour I was back in route to the airport.

As you head into the Express Parking at the Las Vegas airport, you come into a little horseshoe turn that then opens up into a fan of lanes offering you several destinations. It helps to know where you are going as you don’t have much distance to get into the lane you need. Imagine my surprise when I came around the corner and the three lanes that I had an option to continue down had yellow bars over them that said 7′ and under vehicles and 8′ and under vehicles. I suddenly felt relief that my van had a toilet in it and horrified that I wasn’t sitting on it. I slowed down to 5 mph with cars honking at me as they whizzed by me. In total panic I was looking for a place to pull over and figure out what to do when a little yellow sign to the right popped into my line of sight. “Oversized vehicle emergency exit” and an arrow pointing into the taxi line. I quickly determined this qualified as an emergency and pulled into the taxi line where it became clear I could move in to the shuttle-vehicle lane where the rental car and long-term parking shuttles were going about their business.

A deep sign of relief was exhaled and I continued in the lane to the point where I estimated the Southwest baggage area was. I pulled over into an obviously illegal parking spot, jumped out and ran into the terminal to get my bag.

After quickly getting my bag I ran back out to the van where three men had gathered around. One of them said, “Nice van.” The other said, “You can’t park here?” I replied with, “Where the hell could I park?” “It’s a $100 ticket for parking here.” Now in Nevada, they don’t put any sort of license plate on a new vehicle. No paper version of a license plate that many other states do. Instead they put a little pink sticker in the front passenger side of the windshield.  I quickly thought, “Who’s gonna stop me?” I threw my back in the cab of the van, said, “Write me up.” And climbed in and drove away.

A quick stop to at Target and REI and I was on my way!

Death Valley bound from Las Vegas my first day with my van.

Death Valley bound from Las Vegas my first day with my van.

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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