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    The Road


April 20, 2011

You’re not going anywhere.

Most disasters will not require you to get out of town, as romantic as the notion may be. In fact, in the bay area, most disasters will completely strand you as bridges, tunnels and overpasses are shut down for inspections or reconstruction. Not only will this keep you in, it will keep essential services out. In the event of a major quake, you can expect to be on your own for three days to six months depending on the severity of the incident. Truth be told, the following advice will help you even if the tremors you experience are a layoff, an earthquake or the proverbial zombie apocalypse. This is what you need.

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April 12, 2011

Nomadic Electronics

As much as we all want to leave civilization behind, the need for electricity is perpetual and often aggravating. In 2005, I invested in a few small sheets of Powerfilm flexible photovoltaic sheets. Using a cheap battery pack and diode from Radio Shack, I built two simple solar chargers capable of keeping our lights, FRS radios and other electronics working. The whole set up weighed .8 ounces and produced 7-8 volts, enough to charge four AA batteries over the course of the day as we walked through sun and shade.

Unfortunately, the first version of the panels lasted through our field testing, but not through an actual trek. Twenty miles from town, and fifty from the nearest electronics store, the wear and tear of the road ripped the positive wire from my panel, leaving us with only one charger. After the second day of trekking through train tunnels with dim headlamps, I’d had enough and decided to make a field repair.

That evening, after finishing heating water for dinner, I took an old nail I had found along the side of the railroad tracks we were hiking and placed it on the burner of our stove. While the nail was heated to red hot, I laid out the panel on the ground and held the wire in place with a few small stones. I put the maulie clips I used for my map packet onto the panel as an impromptu heat sink to keep from burning it up with the heat from soldering

It took a minute or two for the nail to get red hot. Once it did, I pulled it from the stove with my multi-tool and pressed the wire against the panel in a series of light taps to keep heat low. The solder melted just enough to complete the circuit. I used a small piece of duct tape to add a bit more stability to the junction, and hoped for the best.

The next evening, I pulled the batteries from the charger and was quite pleased to have a bright headlamp to complete my evening’s journals.

Since then, I learned another trick. Creating two jumpers, using alligator clips on both ends of short lengths of wire allows you to clip the panels directly to cell phone batteries, which can be problematic to charge on the road.

Living nomadically does not only rely on your hiking and outdoors skills, it is a perpetual test of your resourcefulness and creativity, and you will frequently find odd applications for many seemingly unrelated life skills.

April 12, 2011

Migrations Have Occurred

So, I certainly owe everyone an update.

We moved off the hill in December of 2009. It was a long story, but worked out for the best; three months later, we discovered we were becoming parents! So now there is a little BabyPacker learning to stomp around.

Before he was even born the family gave us one of those terrific baby backpacks by Kelty, complete with brush guard! I can’t wait to get out there with him once it warms up! I guess I’ll have to start going ultra-light now, if I’m going to have the little bush-rat in my pack.

As I mentioned last week, the original Guerrilla Camping blogs have been gradually refined and expanded over the last four years, and are presently going through a lengthy proofreading process before heading to layout. I’m hoping to get it all done before the end of spring, but everyone laughs when I suggest it’s possible.

I think I’m going to put out a first edition with less layout than I would like, and sell it cheap to guage the reaction.

Meanwhile, the lost chapters are finished. These were chapters I felt were quite important, but at the time I was unable to post them, or complete them to my satisfaction. I spent my family leave finishing these up as I completed the expanded Guerrilla Camping book, and will be posting excerpts here once the proofing process is finished.

The most important new chapter is on staying out of trouble when stealth camping or guerrilla traveling. Another involves the use of supply boxes to move seasonal or sensitive gear without having to lug is or risk it on your back every day.

I will be migrating the original GNN Guerrilla Camping 101 Blogs here this evening, so if you’ve been looking for them, here they come! If it is your first time reading them, please keep in mind that these were furiously written in the limited time I had in front of a computer at that time; forgive the terrible formatting and wretched typos. I’d also like to throw an immense amount of thanks to Floyd Anderson who’s work at the GNN Archive prevented an immense amount of information from going down the memory hole, including Guerrilla Camping!

April 6, 2011

There is so much to say. Guerrilla Camping is currently going through the proofing process with two very amazing editors. Patiently patiently waiting. We might yet see a book!

January 26, 2010

Hey! I’m over here!

You know, I’m a lifestyle migrant; Offline and on. That said, you can keep up with my current projects at work over at REDACTED. There you will find info on our gardens, grow rooms, chicken coops, and helpful tips on everything from erosion control to treating mite infestations in chickens.

Guerrilla Camping is still going, but since it’s been a few years since I had internet with anything but that dumb phone, posts are still going to be intermittent. Big news coming up soon though, so stay posted.

For all of you who followed my stuff on GNN, drop me a line! I miss you!

November 10, 2009

Funny customer inspired thought…

I’m going to sell organic cyanide from organic apple seeds so at least
our rats won’t die of cancer…
I think my sense of humor is intact.

July 8, 2009

Quick Update. Coming up for air again.

Well guys, once again, long time, no blog. As I have mentioned previously, blogging via the iPhone is obnoxious at best, impossible at worst. At last, however, I got a computer. Just the cheapest little netbook I could find. I don’t need the distraction of trying to see what a machine can do. A word processor, a few MP3s and the ability to work online is enough for me.

I’m still quite off the grid, however, I can upload stuff at work, so am working on getting that set up right now.

It has been a wild and convoluted year. The rise and gradual fall of our daily victories, right? They finally got me working full time at the Farm Supply, and it is possibly the best job description I have ever had… “Just wander around and do what you do.”

That’s right. No looking over the shoulder, no second guessing, just the support and assistance of my co-workers and manager. Without question. Open accounts at all the best shops in town, and working for a store that instantly gets me handshakes and warm welcomes at all of them. I must be a running joke at the local welding shop, as I have the most experience with a welder at the shop, and before I got promoted, I had about 14 inches of wire-feed welding under my belt. But they are helpful, and certainly don’t make me feel like an idiot.

About two months ago, we finally got DOGS. Yes. Big DOGS. Well, giant puppies at least. A mix of Great Dane and Cane Corso (an impressive Italian mastiff and, according to legend, descended from the same dogs that fought the lions in ancient Rome). Jack and Liberty are amazing dogs, already able to come, sit and stay with hand commands from a distance, and comfortable in lots of unusual situations, such as parked next to the machine gun booth at the 4th of July carnival in town.

The cabin is… well, the cabin. Things are strange, and we are looking for property to own ourselves.

Well, I’ve got more pressing things to write, so that is all for now.


April 2, 2009

Homestead blacksmithing

The newest addition to the abilities pile. Forged a little coal
scraper before work today… The wife loves it. More later…

March 27, 2009

As always, when there is silence on the blog, you can rest assured that there is a lot going on. Lets see, since the last blog, our garden has grown, but most surprising, the garden at the farm supply has exploded. A few days after publishing blog, I was told to go ahead and plant a garden out in the warehouse yard, something I had given up on, aside from a few onions and garlic, due to a lack of interest from other workers.

In a wild chain of events, we went from “lets plant some stuff and make raised beds” to “lets buy a skip loader and sell bulk soil.” Then on to, “Hey Spicer, go buy a tractor, build a soil bin, license a few of the guys in back, and think about a trailer so we can take the tractor out to our own houses, and rent you out to customers.”

Then, last Monday, this article his to front page of the local paper. The article prompted a few new customers to come in and ask me questions like, “why doesn’t my garden grow?” Wednesday, I got a phone call from the boss, who asked me if I’d be in on Monday because the head of the ag department at the college wants to meet with me, and that we’d also be working out a plan for a community plot for the local senior center.

Our wonderful neighbors, The Donners, are moving back to England again, and I spent last week working with the patriarch of the family helping him finish off projects before his departure. I spent the week mostly holding things and minding the fire on a small forge as I picked up a bit more practical experience in blacksmithing. Upon their departure, we’ll be moving their forge and anvil down here to my place to keep a blacksmith on the hill.

Yet another neighbor moved, but this time he moved his whole house. Having spent nearly two decades in a tipi, he was able to move the house and have it set up in one day, a mile deeper into the hills, finally getting him out of the dust channel of living beside our road. After helping him move a 1000 gallon water tank down a half mile foot path, he asked if I wanted his old tipi, which he had replaced a few months back. So, now we’ve got a 20 foot tipi that will be residing in the west side of the garden.

He also threw in an old box stove, some chairs and planters, and anything else he didn’t want to drag down to his new place. If anybody wants one of those dangerous folding plastic chaise lounges, he’s got one for you cheap. And a little cooler.

Finally, the fourteen month odyssey into experimental wind power resulted in a 30 foot erection as our new slavonius turbine went vertical, producing a whopping 20 watts before choking out and getting set back down.

Our neighborhood watch program got kicked into high gear with the arrival of trespass growers on the timber parcel beside our place, with a neighbor and I tracking them down the river road far enough to make sure they weren’t out in our backyard. A few days later, the security manager of the parcel arrived and we spent about an hour going over the tracks, and being shown the survey markers that mark the limits of our property.

A few days after the trespass growers went driving down our road, I ran into a guy in our driveway with no good business and a downright bad attitude. Being unable to encourage him to leave on my own, the neighbors got called into action and we managed to run him off the hill. Later that day, he enjoyed a 60mph high speed chase down a road I have trouble going more than 20 mph on, flipped his 4runner, and proceeded to defy police as he sat in the wreck. He was found to have a switch blade, tear gas and an empty flashlight containing just over a pound of meth. One of my buddies up here on the hill described him as a spunion, a word I will be using as frequently as possible when encountering tweakers.

Just a normal everyday hillbilly life.

January 27, 2009

Another rapid fire update….

Windmills suck. Or at least the project at hand has proven to suck. We are currently guinea pigs for a new VWAT design, and have been forced to rengineer every step of the way. Mis-shipped nuts, an outdated manual and an installer who dropped out before he ever dropped in have left us with an amazing erector set. I’m now off to replace every airfoil nut using a hand crafted tool, some pipe clamps and a bit of cursing.

The cabin is 99% wired, and I’m into the crafty stuff now, a single switch in the bedroom that turns on emergency lights, which will also turn on if the power goes out. Spot lights over the windows, DP switches, etc. Scored some cool fixtures on last weekends trip to the city.

We have also started insulating the cabin where ever possible. This morning, looking back at the cabin, I noticed a stange pattern of dew on the roof. It was still damp where the insulation was, meaning that less heat is escaping. The cabin is already begining to feel warmer.

LIfe is good.