Going slow

     Nothing of any value was done in a day. Our society is obsessed with the idea that we can have everything that we want within an instant. Often this is the justification of loans for houses or cars, and is the reason that there are predatory lenders such as the paycheck advance loans. What if we tried to go slower? What makes it impossible to enjoy the journey?

     On the property here, I have a lot that will change when winter settles in. The water tanks that I’m using will have to be emptied so they do not get damaged. The vanagon will only be a slight refuge from the cold, with single paned windows and ubiquitous places for air to be exchanged with the outside. I will no longer be able to drive the vanagon to town to fill the propane, since her diesel engine doesn’t like to start in the cold, and I would also be otherwise concerned about getting her back to the top of the hill in any kind of slippery wet conditions. Pouring concrete gets more complicated, and the work day gets shorter. There is less motivation to get out of bed to step into the cold. Winter is a slowly coming crisis.

     I’m not the first to enjoy this adventure. Probably many of the homesteaders who settled here in the early nineteen hundreds felt the same urgency. The natives who lived here also had to spend their autumn in preparation for winter, smoking fish, harvesting grains and squash, or otherwise securing their food sources for the winter.

     Get a little done at a time, that is all you can do. I have spent much time in the winter environment, and kind of enjoy the thought of sleeping in a makeshift canvas dome complete with a wood stove. I filled the propane tank which a heater is mounted, cut up the tent I found on the side of the road to create a patchwork on the dome, bought a carbon monoxide detector, and staged my tools and generator to start making cuts once the connectors arrive(sometime between the 15th and 22nd). I spent a small portion of the week digging holes and peeling the bark off of the logs I retrieved from the forest. I started to get in a good pattern writing, but the weekend tends to interrupt it. Writing in long isolated stints seems to help me get lost in the story, much like when you sit for days on end and read a good novel (my September). I read once that introverts can often see others as a distraction; the longer I am here, the more I see the truth in that. I do not have cell phone service here, so even if someone wanted to get a hold of me it would be impossible, unless of course they just showed up.

     This weekend I will be seeking out distraction: I’m headed again to shelf road. For the foreseeable future, I will be trying to get out there and climb every weekend. There is nothing like climbing to push you into the moment. Sunday I’ll load my truck down with construction materials (concrete bags, 2x4s, cinder blocks) and isolate myself again for another week in this beautiful place. I can see the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo’s off in the background, and the snow that fell there last week is fading to white couloirs and crevices. There is at least one spot that I am curious about the possibility of Ice climbing. Later this month I’ll probably make the three mile trek to see if the early freeze thaw cycles were enough to create something up there at 12,500 feet. The warm temperatures this weekend, and the disappearing snow, give me some hope.

Missions, polluted waterways, and infinite mechanical noises. Get me out of here!

Remnants of the wall’s protective facade at the San Jose Mission

     Tomorrow will make a week of being stranded here, last Wednesday night being the first. My bike got stolen Saturday night while I slept. Federal police interrupted my nap outside the San Jose mission and told me if they saw me again I would get a ticket for loitering (this was the first time they saw me). They thought I was homeless, which I basically am right now. The stench of cars and exhaust is thick. The people swarm around like a hive full of angry bees. I try to write, or read, or play ukulele in the park, but the day stretches on so long there is always too much time in it. Sometimes long walks help. It is four miles to the Blue Star brewery. Yesterday I walked/skateboarded to the center of the hive to tour pawn shops in order to see if I could spot my yellow bike, which one of the species was obviously attracted to. What makes one accepting of living in such an environment I wonder? The river walk, which is the main path to move up and down the city, is filled with trash to the high water line. There are many areas of the walk where it looks like a bulldozer just drove through. Ecological devastation for all those poor birds migrating through the central flyway. Myself, I would rather walk back to the shoreline of Texas and sleep in the dunes with the coyotes than spend another month here. Fortunately, my hub assembly is due to arrive today.

The gates at San Jose

     Oh the exhilaration to be moving through the thick Texas air again, I can feel it now. First chance I get I’m ditching off onto a backroad and busting out that solar shower. I did manage to sneak one here, but I am right next to the road. I don’t think any passers by noticed my soapy naked body crouched and partially concealed by my van, the building, and a dumpster.

Mission Conception

     The historic missions, which must be the most alluring part of San Antonio, were nice to visit (when I wasn’t being accosted by officers). I made my way to the two nearest me: Mission Conception and Mission San Jose. One thing that stuck out however is that the winner writes the history books. Since nobody knows how to fashion a bow anymore, you can guess who the winner was. It was certainly portrayed that the Spanish were helping the Indians, by teaching them animal husbandry and farming. The ones here were foragers in place, but apparently dealt with mobile tribes as well that would also want to use some of the surrounding resources, fish and game. The Spanish integrated the Indians into their workforce of blacksmiths, masons, and farmers. Much faster to build the stone walls with all these Indians stacking the stone! They turned them into Christians and Tax Paying Citizens(truly civilized then). The Indians really having no choice, since the Spanish just came in and set up shop like they owned the place. The Spaniards had the superior technology of muskets and cannons, which helped. They could promise protections from the pesky mobile aboriginals

Mission San Jose

     At any rate, I’ve cleaned the van, and am ready to embark again on my journey to Colorado. I will be happy to have to get into my heavy sleeping bag at night, and enjoy the warming sunshine on the cool sixty degree days to come. Surely I will find sand in the van here and there for a very long time.  The small spots of rust that sporadically appeared will always be a reminder of my wonderful month surfing and living on the beach in Port Aransas.

Roadside havoc in the Alamo city

Metal and cement mesh at highway speeds.

 

 

 

 

     Stuck in San Antonio. Something that can always be expected with the Vanagon is minor road problems. In this case, my bearing failed on the rear driver side, causing the retaining nut for my rear wheel to come off allowing the tire with brake drum the liberty of traveling down the highway unaccompanied by myself. The sudden loss of stability and metallic sounds that erupt when you suddenly go from traveling on four wheels to traveling on three wheels is something I hope not to experience too many times in my life. The brakes go soft as fluid all oozes into the pads that have nothing to push against. The sparks visible from the driver’s side mirror are evidence of the problem if one were deaf to the noise. I reacted by yanking the emergency brake and downshifting, slowing myself just enough to get out of the traffic on highway 10. After three hours of waiting on the highway I finally got a tow truck driver competent enough to get the rig onto a truck. Unfortunately the mechanic that I was towed to, who has been in the shop here for forty years, is past his prime, and unable to take on as much work as he would like. His normal four day work week is being cut to three on this occasion and he is taking a four day holiday. I may get the parts I need, a hub assembly, from Oklahoma tomorrow, or Saturday, or Monday. What more can be expected from life than uncertainty? I am not in the best part of town, quite a run down section I’m told with crack dealers and prostitutes, I was told by the gentleman here that I am more than welcome to stay until the parts come in, at which point we will transport the van to his friends shop. Until then, I’m told there is a river walk a few blocks over which I will likely check out this afternoon.

My home for an indeterminate time

 

 

     It is hard to leave the beach, and all the people that I’ve met there. Wayne and Diane were wonderful friends to have especially with their love of gardening. As luck would have it, I met three kindred spirits a few days before taking off. Kandice, Sarah, and John will hopefully pop back up in my life again at some point, perhaps next winter if not sooner. I feel for Tom, my boat neighbor, who is now eighty years old, as we were great companions during my time there. All the days talking politics, bullion, guns, and drag racing will live on in my memory though he may be gone in a handful of years. Isn’t that how all of our society is constructed? From stories. We learn how the world is from the generations before us, and are almost bound by tradition as we head of into the future. Putting kids behind the wheel of a red bodied, yellow roofed, foot powered plastic play toy comes to mind. Just getting them used to the fact that cars are an essential part of our life.

     Right now I’m trying to redesign my own life, into one that is not so dependent on fossil fuels. Going back to my property feels like the only way I can go back to the land. My plight is more in line with the Native Americans however, being driven to the fringe of habitable environments to survive. All the fertile floodplains and creek sides have been gobbled up by the affluent, who no more care to garden than they care to change their own brake pads. I will have to haul water in until I can build a well, or catch what rainwater falls from the sky. The desert landscapes that I have seen rejuvenated with the techniques of permaculture give me hope.

     It will be nice to lay down some roots. I look forward to developing lasting friendships with my neighbors and coworkers. I will be isolated without cell phone service, but also removed from the incessant noise of our news and culture. I think it will be a great chance to just go off and be myself, without outside influence for a little while. I am a little nervous, but in a good way.

    Everything is rusted in TX. Starting day two of looking for parts. Wishing I was at the beach, and not in the mechanics yard.

A group of parasailers

End nationalism now, before it’s too late

     It’s happened. I’ve run completely out of money. Buying a clutch for my van, which I will have to put in later, and paying my property tax for the year has wiped out what little savings I have. I haven’t been hit zero for a while, and though I don’t like money in general, I also don’t care to be eating Seagulls and Mullet (which I can readily catch with a cast net now!). Potatoes and onions have been the staple of my diet for the last month. I have some buffer as I have eight days or so left in the month to figure out what the next step is. Anchoring in the bay seems reasonable, though I will need to dismantle the solar panels on the van in order to make the boat self sustainable. It has the downside of not allowing me to communicate easily with potential employers, all of which are land based. I’m starting the task now, that I should have initiated much sooner, of finding some kind of internet based employment. I am still hoping that I’ll be able to bring some kind of income from this website, though how that will work is yet to be revealed. I will certainly need some kind of internet revenue if I am to go off adventure sailing. Perhaps youtube? I did learn that a few of my facebook friends are more nationalistic than I though. I believe nationalism to be very dangerous. Sort of a blind acceptance of anything done in the name of a country, such as instigate wars with Mexico(Mexican-american war) or displace Native Americans.

      Unfortunately it takes money to get things done on the boat, so I am still in the same basic predicament. Dismantling the solar panels on my van however does not cost money, but may ultimately be a downside if my capricious self decides to just sell the boat and run back to Colorado for white water season.  

     I added a few pages on the site: short stories and original music. Now that I have no money my inhibitions of how my voice sounds or how well a story came out are much lower. I do not have any kind of editor, or peer reviewers unfortunately. I am sure some of the stories I’ve written recently would do much better with a few revisions, as directed from beta readers. Oh well. Back to the grind. Writing is a gift in itself. Looking at it any other way is just a fools game.

Midsadventure sailing

     Today the boat and myself, along with one other new to sailing sailor, made a trip into Aransas Bay. This probably would be classified more under the misadventure category than the adventure category. By the time we rounded the jetty which protects our harbor entrance we had burned a hole in our exhaust tubing and had billowing smoke coming from the cabin. I took a deep breath as if diving into water and went below to bring to the cockpit two of the fire extinguishers so that they would be in a place close at hand if flames exploded. Myself being as afraid of maneuvering my new boat in the confines of a harbor with multiple yachts worth several hundred thousand dollars was enough for me to continue, hoping to gain some semblance of how my boat handles before I head back(I grazed the adjacent boat, without damage, while pulling out since I had the wheel cranked and also was not really sure where center – straight – was). The wind speed was somewhere around seventeen knots, though I heard on the radio somebody report twenty-four (perhaps in the main shipping channel?). Having a new sailor on the boat, as well as never having taken her out deterred me from ever raising the mainsail, which was prepared to be raised. On our first tack the main was blown to leeward, port, and filled that side of the boat with a jumbled sail mess. This amplified the problem that the genoa was running through the safety line on the port side. We sailed out a ways and tacked. My boat has A LOT of freeboard, and with the new sailor at the helm, Robert, we had trouble keeping our momentum through the tack. Teaching Robert how to sail as well as learning the intricacies of my boat was quite the task indeed. Once I explained how to keep momentum through the tack things went much more smoothly. All together we probably tacked six or eight times, and jibed once, each time bettering our ability to work together to complete the task. On the jibe we werent quick enough getting the sheet in and the sail was folded over the forestay(furler). At another point while tacking, the sheet to be brought in cought up on the standing rigging at the level of the deck on the windward side. After a bit I was able, while we were on a starboard tack, to untie the genoa sheet and rethread it outside of the standing rigging as it was supposed to be. In general, I had trouble getting the genoa tight enough that we were really making progress upwind, perhaps having something to do with the fact that we never raised the mainsail, and also have so much windage due to the boats freeboard. Lucky for the two of us, the wind was blowing from the south, so the entrance to the harbor was downwind. On our last several tacks we furled the genoa, slowly, since I had replaced the aging line of insufficient length with an old climbing rope. The climbing rope had lots of stretch, but seemed to do the job reasonably well (I just don’t want to fork over the cash for a new line). With our Genoa a small triangle at the front of the boat we slowly made our way back to the slip. My neighbor Tom, whom I’ve been borrowing tools from, was particularly concerned about our adventure out. His worries as it turns out were unwarrented, as we floated into the slip as well as a seasoned forty year veteran of the ocean. I only started the engine at the very, very end of the journey, in order to put it in reverse and halt our forward momentum. With the sailing in the bay, and the downwind sailing to the harbor, in which I really payed attention to how the boat reacted at slow speeds to tiller changes, I had enough feel for the boat to maneuver her safely to her slip. I wish I had pictures, but wasn’t really thinking about that when the smoke was billowing out of the cabin. Here I am now though, safely moored, and with more work to do, as always. The first problem that I had to attend to upon returning was the leaking packing gland on the driveshaft, which was causing my aging bilge pump to unload about a gallon every four minutes. A bike ride to the hardware store, with Muddy Waters in tow for exercise, and I had my hose clamps (one had broken upon inspection). It only took me an hour in the oil inflicted bilge water to adjust the hose clamps such that there was no more packing leakage. Whether or not I overtightened them is yet to be determined. I guess we will see the next time that I decide to take this boat for a stroll what happens.

     Needless to say, my next couple days will be of engine work. I need to get the raw water system working properly, as well as replace the exhaust tubing that I burned out. This is supposed to be a learning adventure anyhow, and every day is a learning experience. Only with hardship can one grow.