Wednesday, December 29, 2010


OF COURSE YOU DO! EVERYONE WANTS TO BELONG TO SOME KIND OF TRIBE---ITS ONE OF THE 5 UNIVERSAL HUMAN IMPULSES. I'll show you mine--celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving. Christmas first (it's an afterthought) Here we are camped just outside Yuma, Az on free BLM land.
Christmas day gift exchange---a hilariously fun process of selecting and "stealing"
Now I'll return to my origional story about our Thanksgiving gathering: Hwy S22 in California---my tribe is assembling near the base of those mountains near the lovely town of Borrego Springs.
Down there are the early arrivers---our numbers swelled to a hundred by Thanksgiving Day. My rig is at the bottom--for some wierd reason I always choose to park on the edge. This tiny triangle of land is famous among RVers---it's called Peg Leg Smiths ---it's free and only 5 miles from town.
We assemble mornings and afternoons to organize our group activities. Two volunteer host bring focus and plan events.
One of which is morning hikes. I'm always amazed at the general vigor of my retiree companions---able to hike 5 miles or more before breakfast.
One day this bold coyote sauntered by on a morning hunt I suppose.
Another morning, I hear music on the mountain.
It's "Fast Freddy" practicing for a performance. He follows the fiddlers circuit.
Thanksgiving day--all set to serve. (we all chip in $10 for the basics and supplement pot-luck style---it's enough for 3 meals.
Everyone was served in 22 minutes. We are understandably good at this ----been coming here more than 10 years.
I became intrigued by that lady on the left--a newcomer--with true grit---asked her out.
She accepted and we toured the area looking at these marvelous sculptures which dot the landscape---more than a hundred of them----comissioned by a rich guy named Avery. (of Avery labels) He owns the land where they are situated and allows free camping for 3 days at the site.
Together we marvel at this prize winner---seemingly a story or metaphor of some kind---mother eagle brings home a vicious snake----to feed the chicks? or to scare them out of the nest and into the air? Don't know!
The day after Thanksgiving I perform for the crowd--and hopefully to impress the Lady, I poetized:
Something grand and dear is happening here
The world could not have expected:
The mobile domicile---and a new lifestyle
right here---are being perfected.
We're the sprouting seed of a brand-new breed,
living simple and light and lean;
living happy and free like wild cherokee
in our cozy little living machines.
A life that is bold, with ourselves in control;
with clustered friends ---in affection;
reinventing the tribe---helping revive
our long lost natural connection.
Choosing sunlight's glow over ice and snow;
acceptance over sorrow;
adventurous games over riches and fame;
and today--over iffy tomorrow.
We'll never grow old--so long as we roll
onward---till our roadway ends;
expressing our talents and keeping the balance
'tween solitude and friends.
It must have worked---she went with me another day to see more sculptures.
This one perhaps the most elaborate.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I've been a member of this tribe (Wandering Individuals Network ) more than 10 years ---camping with them beyond a thousand nights. I think it is the best singles RV club in the nation---surely the most active because we travel year round--hiking, biking, kayaking, dancing. Its structure is a quirky blend of for-profit enterprise and volunteerism. The club is owned by a single individual who handles the difficult details like newsletter, directory, policy for a yearly charge of $60 per member. Volunteers plan and host the approximately 52 gatherings---a 6 month winter circuit and a 6 month summer one, with an average stay of one week at each place.
This is NEO-TRIBALISM at its best; unlike old tribalism because it is not geographically based--avoids a strict heirarchy; is based on common interest rather than birth; holds common values but not common myths; and of course one is free to come and go at will.
Einstein needed a tribe and so do you. (his friend sorted out the complex math of relativity for him and he worked hard to convince the scientific community--his tribe) We are grievously incomplete without others to communicate with---growing bizarre as we recede from human contact. Even St Anthony--the first Christian hermit / monk had contacts that relayed his message to the world. The trick is to select an inspirational and nurturing tribe--mine has helped me in a hundred way to discover and express myself. I eat better, live better, write better, behave better for my association with them. I hardly need say that a tribe can also drag one down--like street or motorcycle gangs--distract, dilute and waste one's time and energy (like churches). As with Fire and Forceful personalities---good servants--bad masters.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


MEET RON SINOR----A TRUE RENAISSANCE MAN---( A person with very broad interest and talents)---A longtime friend and confidant.
WIN members (Wandering Individuals Network) dancing in the desert on a functional dance floor we constructed in a few hours--when the club wondered if such a thing was possible. You'd
have to dance on it to appreciate its elegance. Folks really enjoyed dancing under the stars.
We met years ago on a remote California trail and immediately exasperated our girlfriends with a non-stop philosophical dialogue. We play off each other so well--cranking up any group we are conversing with---that it is a standing joke among our RV club--that the two of us are not allowed at the campfire at the same time. He keeps me in stitches with his humor.
His whole life has seemingly been an adventurous experiment---3rd of 8 children--son of a fundamentalist preacher. He describes himself as a freethinker--having no religious certainties---rejecting conventional Christianity--embracing an ever-evolving "spiritual" approach. Raised in San Bernadino, Ca. I have quizzed him carefully about the roots of his extraordinary creativity---will share that with you later.
He does not hesitate to do spontaneous, ridiculous things. I've forgotten what this was about--but it shows his playful openness.
The only picture I could find showing his (intact)motor home Before he began creatively altering it. We were camped somewhere in Central California.
Incredibly, He took a saw and cut out a huge slab of it. Who else do you know that would do this to a perfectly good 40 foot motor home?
Ah but see what he's done with that hole---made a slideout--giving lot's more living space inside.
One day he needed a roadworthy trailer----so he built one--out of wood---only the wheels and axels are metal. This one also disassembles to store flat--- out of the way.
The above are just minor projects to him. What really occupies his mind is the betterment of humanity. A current project is to design a revolutionary new kind of house--made of foam---super heat efficient---cheap to build---perfect for cold or hot climates.
A close up of its interior.
RANDY COMMENTS: I don't have the pictures to do justice to this man's accomplishments and vision. ( lost in my old computer)---will just have to tell you.
1. He invented and patented the "Pet Patio" now being sold to RV owners. (allows pets to go safely outside the RV.
2. Designed and built a modern home in Arkansas.
3. Has entertained crowds with a solo stage performance--singing and playing
4.. Has lived communally with several intentional communities--sharing his creativity with them.
5. Has trained extensively in personal growth-----read widely---is curious and interested in almost all aspects of the human condition.
6. Invented a folding guitar.--Works great!
7. built and operated a coffee and buiscuits stand in Quartzsite.
I've quizzed Ron carefully, searching for the roots of his creativity. He thinks all of us are endowed with a measure of it but that many have its impulses stifled with fear or driven out by caregivers in the name of other values like conformity, memorization or repetition. Creativity happens naturally and requires only to be respected in its early bumbling expressions. He remembers being curious and courageous as a child and he thinks these two qualities feed each other in an upward spiral. His father noted his interest and more often invited him in on work projects than his siblings---and he gained skills in carpentry, motors, machinery, electricity, welding etc.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: At the apex of the human personality pyramid 5 types are represented: (in no particular rank)
ENLIGHTENED : Those with extreme clarity of IDENTITY---living as though they are immortal---regarding the world as playful illusion. e.g. Buddha, Rumi
AUTOTELIC---(auto= self---teleos=end) (from the book FLOW by Csikszenmihalyi) ---folks super skilled at generating happiness.
SELF ACTUALIZED---Fullness of Being (I've described this one fully in a blog dated 3/31/08.
GENIUS: Profound insights and skills in a particular field---like Einstein or Darwin.
RENAISSANCE PERSONS---people with very broad skills---who are fascinated, challenged and determined to improve the art and operation of the world. My friend Ron fits this last category.
Like Franklin, he now puts his ideas out to the public--inviting anyone to use them. I think his idea of foam houses could revolutionize our notions of shelter. He's currently building a large scale model.

Anecdote: As I left him in Quartzsite, Az recently, I presented him with a special towing challenge I've been wrestling with---how to attach a single leveling bar to my current hitch to shift some weight forward. He said he would think about it. I left, headed for Blythe, Ca. 8 minutes later he called with a perfectly good solution.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


A NIGHT WITH GENERAL PATTON. His Museum is just ahead---located very near his desert training headquarters--from which he guided vast armies of trainees preparing for warfare in north Africa. Thousands of square miles stretching East to Quartzsite and South to Yuma, Az--constituted the largest training area in history. I'll go through the museum again to warm up my brain to address the big question posed in the title. 30 miles east of Indio, Ca --just off Interstate 10. (how do you pronounce that word?)

I spent the night right here---the famous general just outside my window---I was alone in the parking lot--just me and the "general" and his strange looking dog.

Sunrise and soon the museum opens----lots of tanks outside for the viewing.

Me and the general. Surely one of history's more forceful personalities. Subordinates feared and revered him. His style of warfare was super agressive. Speeches on the wall advocate unrelenting attack---contempt for passive--positional--defensive strategies. He believed this to be the "cheapest"--in terms of lives lost--way to end the war. German Generals considered him the most dangerous---and were incredulous when he was removed from command for merely striking a soldier.

I travel 8 miles and call it a day at the edge of Joshua tree National Park.

I'll just sit here and think awhile about the General and other forceful personalities in history---How do I judge them -- generally? As barrier--breaking--red tape cutting--log jam anniliating--heroes----- or egomaniacal, frenzied bulls in civilizations china shop. ( Incidentally, I'm parked only a few feet from the Colorado Aqueduct---its buried under those bushes this side of the road)

While I'm pondering--who should surprise me but an old friend---enroute to the infamous SLABS. She camps with me for the night.

It's another great sunset. I'll think about the general tomorrow.

RANDY HILOSOPHIZES: OK---I've had time to think. We need charismatic leaders (people with personal magnetism) for the same reason we need salesmen---to bring us to decision and action. Humans naturally drift, dawdle, delay---collectively we are even worse than we are individually---And the tendency of social and personal drift is downward. Societies and nations idle away their time doing nothing of significance. I believe there is important work to be done --defeating the forces of entropy and building progress (progress is the increase of options) ---We need powerful personalities--like Thomas Paine to stir us to action---Personalities like Voltaire--Andrew Jackson--Theodore Roosevelt---and yes--General George Patton who possess personal magnetism. Yes I know Hitler was charismatic too--and led millions down a rathole. As did Napoleon etc. The trick is to use such personalities for the stimulus they provide but not let them use us---exactly like Eisenhower used Patton. Like fire, they make a great servant but a bad master.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


BAGPIPE BOB at the dedication ceremonies to open the spectacular bridge now spanning the Colorado River just below Hoover Dam. (you'll see in a minute how this fits into my story)
TRUCKERS ROOST WHERE HISTORY WAS MADE. Kodger King digs in for the story. I've driven 40 miles today and that's enough---no serious drifter would go further. So halfway between Blythe California and Indio I pause for the night---drawn as is this photographer by the beauty of the distant mountains. I know a bit about this place and would soon learn the rest of the story. See that dark line at the base of the mountain? That is the famous Colorado Aqueduct
---bringing California's share of the Colorado river to Las Angeles. And as you can see the builders faced a formidable problem right there: how to get the water over that mountain. They managed of course designing a kind of clever siphon up and over. You can imagine the thousands of workers once living here. They needed doctors of course for the occasional accident and that lead to a surprising development right here that affects all our lives. I'll tell you in a bit.

First, I show you the town--That Cafe is the last remaining business---all else--except the post office is shut down. Vast dirt lots are empty.

So truckers wheel in for 8 hours sleep. Quiet, spacious, free parking places like this are treasured by drivers.

I don't think you can read this, so I will tell you the gist. Right here was the birthplace of HMO's (health maintainance organizations)----specifically Kaiser Permanente--one of the nations largest.

AND THEN----AND THEN---who should drive up but a colorful old friend "bagpipe" Bob---Fresh from the dedication ceremonies of the new super bridge at Hoover Dam. He's the first to march across it playing the bagpipes. (he makes a good living playing the pipes on special occasions.) I persuade him to stay the night---so we drink beer and catch up.

Next morning I engage the self described "mayor of Desert Center" ---an affable veteran who stopped for a night and never left. He told me the colorful--and likely true---version of the main local characters. The place was founded by a desert codger named Stephen Ragsdale who built up a small empire of desert services and got rich. (google desert center for the full story) Not wishing to leave cash to to his heirs--he spent most of it on a strange project----several huge circles of palm trees.

The owner of the Cafe came by to add her view. When I tell folks I'm putting the story on the internet, I get unbelievable cooperation.

The remains of the palm circle. Dead, said the mayor because the kids turned off the water to them after the old man died.

Sure enough---no water .----but guess what?

One of them lives anyway. Anazing proof of Prigogine's Nobel prize winning theory. Living things stressed but not killed will reorganize in an improved manner. Apparantly, this one palm tree adapted somehow when the water was turned off. I take it as a metaphor for the survival of humanity when mega disasters strike.---Like the black plague. Some will adapt and survive.

Friday, December 03, 2010


I'VE JUST SPENT A WEEK WITH A GENIUS. (will report later) Today I'm drifting West. The difference between drifting and traveling is that the traveler can easily answer the question: Where to? In drift mode I turn my internal radar on--- scanning for anything that might interest me---having no notion where I will spend the night.Leaving Quartzsite, Az----Down this hill is the California border, The Colorado River, and Blythe, Ca----often the hottest place in the US.

Of course my radar beeps at this sight---first time I've seen the word OUTCAST used on such a sign---a powerful, emotional word. I investigate-----It's not as bad as it seems. The guy is not slumped in despondency---he's reading a book---not actively panhandling. In fact, he's in pretty good shape. Consider---he has a pretty complete "outfit"----transportation, bedding, housing, food, cooking gear and water in the trailer. It's what he doesn't have that should make you envious----THE BURDEN OF EGO. He has willingly opted out of the struggle for status and possessions, radically simplified his life, found a comfortable niche and thoroughly enjoys the inexpensive pleasures of adventure novels. Siddhartha (the Hesse novel) descended to a similar level, savoring life on the riverbank.

In town, people selling puppies let me hold this one. I almost wept with joy.

Saw this in a window---decided to go see the site.

But it's late---I'll call it a day---right here in this empty lot.

This is not the huge project--Still I want the story! 32 panels---120 watts each ---3,840 watts. Total cost $25,000--feeds surplus power into the grid--earning money---about 10% on the investment. I watched awhile as they tracked the sun till it sank---then swiveled back to morning position. It tracks horizonally and vertically---almost doubling the fixed position output.

Oh sweet people---can you see why I fell in love with the West?

Next morning I explore my area. Found a transit camp for illegals. I've seen lots of them.

Out there---about 6 miles---is the site where the world's largest (of its type) solar array will be built. Locals are excited---for the jobs---and approving in general --of the project.

I dithered a bit--then decided no!

Taylor helped me understand why I so love the desert environment: It's SPACE, AND SOLITUDE AND SILENCE (away from the interstate of course) A trinity of nourishment for the spirit.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I simply cannot imagine a better life than drifting around like this. Perhaps a partner might spice it up----we'll see!