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14 September 2021

Tech follow-up

The Travel Router was a success. It took me a while to figure out how to access all the menus for the device, but now that I have, and I have configured it to my taste, I consider it to allow the user "full authority" over how it works. I set up my usual configuration:
changing the device login name and password
changing and then not broadcasting the SSIDs (one each for the 2.5 and 5.0 GHz access points)
enabling MAC filtering for access
entering the MAC addresses for all of the devices BB and I are likely to use on the road

Pro Tip: the "Tether" app is very rudimentary for configuration ... meaning not very useful. Connect to your device by ethernet cable and log in to the web portal to do the things I described above.

Meanwhile, t he USBC-to-ethernet port adapter worked easily and well with my Galaxy Tab S5e tablet. I just plugged it in, configured my tablet for ethernet communications, and away I went.
Pro tip: this particular adapter can source power to the ethernet port. The battery in my tablet went from 100% to 65% in about an hour. Now granted, I was pulling a lot of mapping tiles from a remote server during that time, but even so I thought that was a bit of excessive consumption. Watch your battery level when you use this adapter, because you don't want to have your tablet die in the middle of a download.

That's all! Stay tuned!



11 September 2021

It's the anniversary ... I get it. But I'm not going to write about that.

We're still getting our act together for this upcoming road trip of ours. I've been spending some time identifying trails and historic features to go explore, and have loaded about 15 or 16 of them onto my tablet. We're gathering stuff together for some serious off-roading ... our little air compressor for "airing up" after a trail run, our traction boards in case we get stuck on something slippery, sleeping bags and hike-out gear in case we can't get ourselves un-stuck, and confirming that the gear we normally carry on board the LRB is in fact still there and still trail-worthy.

Speaking of trail worthiness , I replaced the two RotoPax gas cans we had. After some years of bouncing around on their steel mount out back by the spare tire, they had started to leak. Not as in dripping fuel all over everything, but as in smelling fumes whenever I was near them. So two new cans are mounted and ready for this run. And then today I spent some time in the shop with the LRB in an attempt to get a little more air into the engine. More detail on that here.

The fires southwest of us continue to dump tons of smoke and ash into the Rogue River Valley. Air quality numbers have been in the "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" range, but yesterday we got a little (and I mean little) rain, and today's numbers are significantly better. We peaked at AQI 225 on the afternoon of the 5th, and were regularly hitting afternoon highs in the 150s or higher until today. So far today we haven't even hit triple digits, right now (almost 1600) the AQI is 57, "moderate." So maybe things are finally taking a turn for the better down there.

Let's talk tech geek. Some time ago I obtained a "travel router" made by tp-link, their model number TL-WR902AC. This is supposed to be the kind for road warriors. Essentially, you plug this into any old ethernet jack, and it becomes your own little personal WiFi access point, set up and managed by you, that you can take anywhere you go. No more logging in to the questionable WiFi APs offered by whatever accommodation you have obtained for the night, just plug this into their network port and away you go, safe, clean, and fully in control. I'm going to set this up and test it tomorrow. I will report my findings on its suitability and ease of use, and after the road trip let you know what our field experience with it was.

"Teching" further, I also picked up a Belkin INC001 USB-C to Ethernet + Charge adapter. I can use this to connect my Samsung Tab S5e tablet directly to an ethernet port. This tablet is my mobile mapping platform for off-road fun, and I download a lot of maps from Gaia GPS (thanks to the Premium membership my son and his wife got us). With a hard-wired connection my tablet can download those maps here at home much faster than over my WiFi access point. Speed is king, they say ... I'll let you know how that works out for us as well, if you're interested.

Meanwhile, BB's been making improvements in the "exercise room," which used to be the front bedroom in our house. On our last cargo run from down south we grabbed the treadmill she loves from her house down there, and hauled it up here. The hauling part wasn't tough, but the loading and unloading were pretty hard work, especially when you consider that it required disassembly and re-assembly. The thing is just too big to get through a 36" door frame, no matter how you turn it. The mill is a NordicTrack Commercial 2450, net weight somewhere north of 325 pounds. You can take it apart, but I'll bet the deck comprises at least half of that 325 or so pounds. Wrestling that out of a house, down some steps, and into our cargo trailer was a workout. So was repeating the process in reverse here at Casa Conejita. But the end result was worth the effort ...

The room is still a work in progress, she has art work she wants to put on the walls, and a couple of book cases to bring in, but it's already got the flat screen networked TV and cable box deployed. It's the last of the four bedrooms we have to complete. After that, we're down to painting the front room and kitchen, and then we should be done. I can't wait to put my feet up after all this time and say DONE ... what's next?

Stay tuned ... !



17 August 2021

So Happy Birthday to my girl today.

She turned 42, or something. I don't know ... and I don't really care. We celebrated in my ignorance.

(OK, I admit, slight exaggeration ... ;^)

We've been wheeling in the hills around us for the past couple of days. Yesterday we were west of town, out towards Applegate Lake. We reaffirmed some old wheeler's wisdom up there on the side of Burnt Peak. Just because your handy-dandy USFS map shows road number so-and-so, doesn't mean it is actually there. We were trying to get over the ridge heading west from the Applegate River drainage to the Brush Creek drainage, and found the road we needed to make that trip. Unfortunately, it had been blocked and covered with the felling of several trees and the placement of large bunches of limbs and brush for the first fifty yards of the trail. I believe this is the Forest Service method of making trails disappear. "Reclamation," they call it. In any event, we retraced our steps, headed southwest past Applegate Lake, and spent the balance of the day headed north through the hills northwest of there. It was pretty warm, we saw 96 degrees before the day was done, and there was some smoke. It was pretty thick at times, but manageable overall.

Then somehow, on her special day, the temperatures dropped about 25 degrees and the skies were clear in the morning ... we could not only see the hills around us, but we could see the different colors of the terrain. Even distant mountains were visible to us, at least for a while. So we headed northeast to find and climb up Elk Creek. We made it up to 5000 feet at one point before turning east to eventually find Jim Creek and follow it to the Rogue River. Again, we encountered smoke, pretty thick for a bit, but we got to enjoy some clear air for a while.

So, not too much yapping here, just a couple of images for your consideration.

Taken with a Canon 5D using a 17-40 mm 1:4 L series lens at 26mm. Camera set at ISO 100, f/8 at 1/100.

This is just above the Woodruff Bridge over the Rogue River, south of Jim Creek in the Rogue River National Forest. We had just come down out of the hills to the west.


Taken with a Samsung SM-G930A (Galaxy S7) smart phone at 42mm. Imager set at ISO 40, f/1.7 at 1/2000.

The Rogue River south of Union Creek. This is near the "Natural Bridge," a point where the river actually flows for 250 feet through a lava tube under the surface of the lava that covers the area. This is just below where the river re-appears from its sub-surface run.

The smoke precluded much photography, and even prevented us from hiking around much. We wore masks much of the time to keep the worst of the particulates out of our lungs. Ash fall was visible in the Union Creek area, but conditions improved quite a bit as we headed home. All in all, a fun coupe of days getting the LRB dirty.

That's all for now ... stay tuned!



14 August 2021

¡La Coneja y El Coyote estan en la búsqueda! On the hunt, as it were. We haven't taken a real, "get away from it all" vacation in several years, so we're going to try and fix that. We've been planning for a couple of days. That may sound like we're over-thinking some things, but not really. We'll be gone about three weeks, and during that time we'll be off road eleven days ... about half of the trip. Two trail days in Arizona, seven in Colorado, and one in Utah. Old favorites like Yankee Boy and Imogene will mix with new adventures on the White Rim and out to Point Sublime, Jacob's Monument, and Cumberland Basin. All of those back-country adventures need maps, and I have today downloaded several gigabytes of mapping data to my Android tablet (using the Gaia GPS app), to make sure that no matter where we go or how far out we get, with good maps and a good GPS we'll always be able to find our way back.

If we want to ...

Most of our other loadout is already done. The LRB is more or less ready to go full time, all we have to do is throw a few "luxuries" in the back, which will be primarily camera gear and electronics. We can never stray too far from the grid because we have to be ready to deal remotely with digressions form the normal operating parameters at Ma Coyote's house, if said digressions occur. And if we come up with some really outstanding images, we might want to post them here while we're still on the road.

Oh yeah, and we might want to take a few changes of clothes, too. No sense smelling like yesterday's overworked burros by the time we're five days out, let alone fifteen.

So we're kinda excited. I may yap more about that as the departure date gets closer.

Meanwhile our air quality here in the Rogue River Valley continues to suffer. For the past several days the AQI numbers have been in the hundreds and the air visibility has been less than a mile. The previously mentioned suspects are contributing, plus a couple of new players:

The McCash Fire, 2205 acres, 1% contained, south of Happy Camp, CA
The River Complex Fires, 39,335 acres, 10% contained, west of Dunsmuir, CA
The Lava Fire, 26,409 acres, 85% contained, on the northwest slope of Mount Shasta, CA
The Antelope Fire, 50,342 acres, 25% contained, northeast of Mount Shasta, CA
The Fox Complex Fire, 7000 acres, 0% contained, west of Lakeview, OR
The Cutoff Fire, 1288 acres, 96% contained, east of Klamath Falls, OR
The Bootleg Fire, 413,717 acres, 98% contained, northeast of Klamath Falls, OR
The Devil's Knob Complex Fires, 6606 acres, 12% contained, north of Medford (hey, I don't name 'em, I just report the facts)
The Skyline Ridge Complex Fires, 4828 acres, 33% contained, north of Grants Pass
The Jack Fire, 23,614 acres, 53% contained, east of Roseburg, OR.

So yeah, spending a lot of time indoors. Smells bad outside, and after being out there a while your throat and chest start to hurt, and it gets difficult to talk.

That's all!

Catch you later!



8 August 2021

So last time we tuned in, I was recently retired, recently remarried, and engaged in some Jeep-powered long-haul trucking vis á vi relocating to a new residence in southern Oregon.

Since that time about a third of the town we were relocating to burned down in the Almeda Fire in September of last year. Google it, it made national news. And yes, we live in Talent. Fortunately, we live on the west side of the railroad tracks that run through town, which were not only a good fire break but also the edge of the mandatory evacuation zone (were were just outside of the zone). Even so, as the afternoon turned to dark of night beneath the ever-growing black clouds of smoke, and as the ash fall got thicker and thicker, we bugged out ... along with several thousand other families. Fortunately we had a vehicle we could rely on, and some knowledge of the roads and trails in the mountains to the south of us, and our escape route bypassed the traffic jams that clogged our valley for many hours.

Our escape route took us southwest up to the Siskiyou crest, and then east past the Mount Ashland ski resort to eventually wind up in central Ashland at my cousin's house. Her family was elsewhere and offered us the use of her house, where we stayed for six days until things settled down. Air quality was horrible during that week, with visibility in smoke and ash fall measured in hundreds of feet much of the time. Going outside for more than just a few minutes was very "unhealthful" (that means risky) for everyone.

Short story, our house and neighborhood survived, even though entire neighborhoods were reduced to ash less than 350 yards northeast of our front room. We can thank the weather for that, it turns out that old devil Santa Anna is well known in these parts as well. Even so, much of the downtown area of our little town was destroyed along with about a third of the rest of the town, plus much of the city of Phoenix, and even parts of south Medford, just up the highway to the northwest. Another cousin lives in a tract of modular homes in Phoenix, and entire neighborhoods, blocks and blocks of them, were nothing more than ash and steel, just walking distance south of his home. Like virtually all of both Talent and Phoenix, the utilities at our home were out. The water and gas were off for several days, and power was out for over a week. But except for the stink of roasted neighborhoods and having to clean out our refrigerator and freezer, we suffered no damage.

Then COVID went absolutely insane in the Los Angeles Basin last December, every hospital ran out of beds and places to store the deceased victims, and the state had to round up and deploy thousands of refrigerated truck trailers to store the cadavers in, because the morgues and funeral homes were overloaded to the point of being unable to operate at all. It's kind of creepy seeing an entire fleet of refrigerated trailers every one of them purring away, tightly packed side-by-side in rows, in the parking lot of a hospital. And the numbers of dead reported each day kept going up and up and up ... to thousands per day. It was a real bad time. Ma Coyote was at home with her caregivers the entire time, and despite precautions was exposed to COVID about a week before Christmas. At that time she had not yet qualified for a vaccination, so she had to quarantine and test ... and the day after she got her test results (yay! negative), she was exposed again. Both times by caregiver staff who had also been exposed, but were not aware that they had been at the time they worked with my mom. Second quarantine and test, also negative. But all of that convinced BB and I to stay the hell away from SoCal, even though much of our stuff was still down there. We basically sheltered in place at the Oregon residence from shortly after Thanksgiving until early May, when our two-week quarantine after the second Moderna shots expired. So we took half a year off for sheltering, and have now resumed our 12 hour non-stop shuttles back and forth across California.

Ma Coyote, by the way, is doing fine. We celebrated her 96th birthday a week ago.

Now all of our stuff from Ma Coyote's house, and about 90% of the stuff from the Fullerton warehouse, is up here. Even so, the most recent load has yet to see the light of day, it's still all in the trailer. And after we resolve that minor issue we'll head south again to get some last things from the warehouse and several things from BB's home in Chatsworth. I figure two, maybe three more runs before we'll be done playing long-haul operators.

You may recall the picture of the LRB from my last 2020 post, showing those new air bags in the coil spring. They worked great ... for one trip. So we decided to fix the problem instead of band-aid it, and replaced the entire suspension system under the LRB. Details in The Little Red Beast section of this site. Here's how it looks today:

The LRB at the Wrangle Gap shelter, just below the Siskiyou Crest west of Mount Ashland.

We have since been off road with the LRB several times, and it actually rides better on highway and off road with this new suspension. We are happy.

These days there is a lot of smoke in our valley, but now from fires burning some distance from us. The closest is the McCash Fire, burning in the Siskiyou Mountains about 55 miles southwest of us. Like most other fires currently burning around us, it was started by lightning, and has burned 1334 of remote wilderness. The other fires are:
The River Complex Fires, 25,188 acres, west of Dunsmuir, CA
The Lava Fire, 26,409 acres, on the northwest slope of Mount Shasta, CA
The Antelope Fire, 41,958 acres, northeast of Mount Shasta, CA
The Cutoff Fire, 1288 acres, east of Klamath Falls, OR
The Bootleg Fire, 413,765 acres, northeast of Klamath Falls, OR

Depending on where the wind comes from, we can get smoke from any of these fires. Recently there was a low pressure cell offshore of northern California working with a high pressure cell over northern Nevada, and that created a condition where strong airflow was being pulled in a northeasterly direction off the Pacific, over the fires south of us, and then directly into the Rogue River Valley. It carried an awful lot of that smoke into the valley our little town sits in. When it's really bad the air is unsafe to breathe, but we have a nice central air system and a whole-house air filter (an IQ Air), so we just stay indoors until conditions improve.


Taken this last spring, looking west from the lower part of our property towards our house.

Some days are better than others, smoke-wise, but overall it's a good life here. We have family nearby, and the proximity to mountains, beaches, and desert, minus about twenty million people compared to where we came from, please us. We bulked up a little bit thanks to over a year of sheltering interspersed with long-haul driving, but we're slowly shedding the excess tonnage and are otherwise healthy. Hopefully by this fall we'll be able to shift from trucking to overlanding / exploring the western US, and we'll have more interesting images to share with you

That's all the SC news that's fit to print.

Catch you later!




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