Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Sunset at Campbell Trailhead

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I got a lead on a potentially good sunset-catching spot.

"Go all the way up Campbell Road til you can't go any farther. It's there.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Easy enough.

The road actually ends at a higher apex than the scenic outlook, but only those who can pass into the gated community across from the trailhead may continue to the summit.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

View seekers must stay outside the gate and fences.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

The trail itself is a fenced corridor, an easement through private properties.  A rather sardonic article here about the trail, written by Charles Miles, with attractive photos.

There are two views from the trailhead. One is down Campbell and into Tucson center. 

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

 The other is out west.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I packed a picnic dinner for my trip up Campbell Road. There are neither tables nor toilets at the trailhead. I ate inside Chez Prius.

More views:

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Sunset from Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

I laughed when I saw this:

Campbell Trailhead, Tucson, AZ. November 2019.

Heheheheheh. A self-correcting issue, when the yowwens get eaten by their young some decades hence, as our parents got eaten by us some decades past.

Other Tucson sunsets here.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Stuff: Releasing More

My stuff on a table at Rami's in Keshalo, outside Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia. September 2011. I released the "headache hat" a couple of years ago.

My goal when I leave Tucson is to carry in my car only what I could comfortably live with if I were to live in my car.

This raises - lowers? - my bar significantly from my past relocations. Til now, my relocation rule has been: If it fits in my car, it can come. Spare space for sleeping in the car or taking on a passenger was not a criterion.

Compliance with my new standard demands radical evictions.

Some of my stuff in Opelousas, Louisiana. All released back to the wild when I left. February 2016.


For several years, I've carried four pillows with me.

Their ride ends in Tucson. Too much squishy, fluffy mass that serves only one purpose - to rest my head or raise my feet.

Oh, I'll still have "pillows," but blankets, towels, sweaters, and linens are what will fill their cases.

This will eliminate:
  1. The mass the 'real' pillows would take; and
  2. A large bin that has stored my blankets and linens in past moves.


Each of us carries assumptions that are so internalized, we don't know they exist. They are like gravity - always present, but never noticed.

To my surprise, I evidently harbored an unexamined belief that one's household "must" have cutlery place settings for eight, at least.

But after watching countless youtubes on #vanlife, #hotelprius, et al, and observing vehicle dwellers' claims of only having one or two forks and spoons - just enough for themselves - it struck me.

The "it" crept in by spurts.

First: Why have I continued to carry eight dinner knives with me? They are long and they are heavy. Yet I only use a dinner knife to scoop a plump line of Miracle Whip Light out of a jar.

Second: Why do I need table settings for eight? I rarely entertain, and when I do, it's just for one or two people, and, once every two years or so, four people.

Conclusion: I'm not ready to reduce my cutlery to one or two place settings, but I am ready to cut it down to four. I will make it so.

Surprise: I mourn this. Not enough to change my mind, but still. I bought my dinner cutlery before I was married. Before my child was born. I love its weight, its sturdiness, its clean lines.

Small appliances

I'll wave fond goodbyes to:
  • Toaster
  • Coffee maker
  • Cheapo stick vacuum 
  • Broom


I am observing which items of clothing malinger in the closet for months on end, not paying rent.

They'll have to go.

Same for shoes.


Some items I need, but in a smaller size than I currently have, such as:

  • Document file box
  • Camp chair
  • Camp kitchen box (this, too, will cause separation pangs)

Out with the old 'n big and in with the new 'n petite.

There will be more acts of attrition as D-Day approaches. Probably a few tears, too.

Speaking of binge-watching #vanlife, etc. youtubes: Out of the bajillions I've now watched, the one below is the most charming. I see why it harvested MILLIONS of views:

A plethora of related posts on my stuff here: Losses, break-ups, and acquisitions.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tucson, AZ: A Bully's Ripple Effect

Very, very fresh chicken at McDonald's. North Louisiana. August 2015.

I arrived early for a meeting at a local McDonald's. I bought a senior diet soda for 76 cents. I sat at a small table in one of the restaurant's alcoves. I pulled out my phone to continue reading the e-version of Augusten Burroughs' tragicomic drunkalog, Dry.

The only other customer in the alcove was a man seated at a table by the front window of the restaurant alcove. He tried to engage me in conversation almost as soon as I sat down. I'll call him Stu.

First Stu talked about the weather, how it had turned a little chilly here. But how it didn't compare with the cold of Chicago one time when he was there. Then Stu segued into climate change.

McDonald's in the Marjinishvili neighborhood, Tbilisi, Georgia. June 2012.

But then Stu got into something that was troubling him. The previous day, at the same McDonald's, he'd been the unwilling witness to a man who berated his woman companion. The man told the woman what a worthless human she was, how she was nothing but trouble for him, and so on and so on.

Stu described how distressing this was for him, an observer. Stu relayed his concern to the shift manager. The shift manager said there was nothing he could do.

Stu did not intervene, and this gnawed at him. Was he right not to have? Should he have? The scene he witnessed took him back to when he was a child and he saw how his father heaped verbal and emotional abuse on his mother, and how she - and Stu - were powerless to stop it.

He asked me, a stranger: Should I have done something? What should I have done? He could have had a gun.

It later emerged that Stu had only recently been released from a "long incarceration," and that played into his decision-making, as well.

The abuser's ugly words looped through Stu's mind over and over and over, as did the uncertainty of what he might have done differently. Or the same.

As Stu kneaded and rolled and turned that mental knot with me, it settled into my thoughts, as well, taking me back to a scene in which I'd been that woman, and also to another time, when I'd been a witness who did not intervene, ever-after torn, like Stu, in wondering if I should have stepped up or if it had been the right course to witness in silence, out of respect for the recipient's dignity of self-determination.

The bully's ugly words and the hatefulness with which he uttered them at a local McDonald's in Tucson. They didn't just poison his target. They splashed and burned onto a witness. A day later, albeit diluted, they splashed and burned onto me, and I wasn't even there.

When my friend arrived for our meeting, Stu turned to one of the McDonald's employees, who'd just entered the alcove to wipe down some tables. He began to tell her his story of that bully.

And now I share it with you.

A toxic spill.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Rootless: A New Vehicular Mate, Part 5

Prius car camping. October 2019.

After months of youtube watching to see how car-campers did the:
  • Bed
  • Window covering

....  I was ready for and executed my maiden camp voyage.

It was only for one night, and there were a couple of minor glitches (as was to be expected), but overall, it was a successful mission.


I bought a 3-inch foam pad for about $25 at Home Depot. Measurements = 72" x 24." This was a perfect fit both length- and width-wise for my 2012 Prius V. 

I wrapped the pad in a twin-size mattress cover, using three sheet-grippers on the flip side to keep it tidily in place.
Image result for sheet grippers

Atop the  mattress cover, I placed an old sleeping bag, in which I cocooned a twin-size flat sheet, folded lengthwise, meaning that my body lay between the two folded halves of the sheet. I only zipped the foot of the sleeping bag, leaving the rest unzipped. In this way, I could easily fold both top layers off of me to get in and out of bed or to regulate my comfort level if things got too warm or too chilly.

Prius car camping. October 2019.

The head of my bed sat atop a folded blanket + two plastic storage bins, as you can see below:

Prius car camping. October 2019.

You'll notice that the bins and blanket support the head of the 'bed.' To get the bins and the full length of the foam pad into its slot, I had to pull the front passenger seat all the way forward.

The Sterilite bin dimensions are:

Because I'm relatively short, I may be able to fit comfortably below the top of the folded-down back seat. (Note that I removed the head-rests.) I'll check this out in the future.

So how comfortable was the bed on my first night?

I'd give it a 90% thumbs-up. I felt the glimmerings of a dull backache in the early hours of the pre-dawn, but that's not enough to go on yet.

Window covering

I don't plan to stealth camp, so I'm not concerned about making it appear that my car is unoccupied while I'm inside sleeping.

After a lot of over-thinking, a little experimenting, and many hours of watching youtubers share their schemes, I'm pretty happy with using a mix of strategies.

In the photo below, you can see examples of four methods I used:

Prius car camping. October 2019.

  1. I cut out a panel from a roll of Reflectix that I bought at a Lowe's or Home Depot
  2. I bought a pair of window "socks" via Amazon (more on these later in this post)
  3. I bought some magnets - small round disks + some smallish rectangles - and draped a shawl over the front driver side window. The window frame on the inside is metal, and I placed several magnets under the top edge and one or two on the side edges. 
  4. On my car, the passenger side design is such that I could loop one end of a bungee cord to the front windowshade, run it through the front-seat and back-seat ceiling-edge hand grips, and hook the other end to the infant-seat buckle ledge that is along the ceiling edge behind the rear passenger seat. Using clothespins, I hung another shawl so that it ran from the front window to the end of the back window. Or, I should say, I could have done that, but I chose to leave the back passenger window with just the window screen sock so I could have a cross breeze between the two back passenger windows. 

Prius car camping. October 2019.

Above you can see I used the Reflectix for the rear window, as I did the triangular windows in the back bay area of the car.

Prius car camping. October 2019.

And although the photo immediately above is a repeat of the long-view bed shot I posted earlier, now that we're talking window coverings, take note of the bungee cord and clothespin set-up on the right.

Also note that I stretched a bungee cord in the front seat area across the width of the car. It was as good a place as any to experiment with an internal clothesline, and in this case, a towel holder. It had the additional benefit of offering a second line of privacy behind the windshield AND obscuring the blinking security dash light. In the windshield, I had placed my usual sun shade disks.

None of the window coverings required permanent changes to the Prius. Nor did they require any handywoman skills, other than the cutting out of the Reflectix. 

The window screen socks were fine for me camping, however, if I'd had a light on inside the Prius, they would have offered no privacy. Which is why I wanted the second-line option of the shawl clothespinned from the bungee cord on one side of the car.

I liked that I could see out of the car through the window screen socks much better than someone could see in. In fact, without lights on inside, someone would have had to press up hard against the window to see much of anything through the window screen sock.

On the other hand, the screen sock not only keeps out flying little biters and ear buzzers, it stops some of the breeze, too. I didn't have my windows rolled down all the way with the screens on, so I'll try that out next time. Also, I'll likely invest in a small usb fan to push some air flow across my head.


Ceiling lights. The default setting for my ceiling lights is to go on when I open my doors. Not good in a campsite scenario, at least not for me. My fix: Slide the ceiling light buttons over to the "off" position so they don't power on when I open the doors.

Beeping. Because I had my key with me and because I was in a car, I defaulted to locking the car while I was inside and ready to sleep. But the Prius door (at least not the back door) doesn't automatically release when you pull the inside door handle. This means you have to press the unlock button on the keyfob, which means, yes, there's the double beeping sound when you unlock it. Which is not being a good neighbor to folks in nearby campsites.

It's not like I was ever able to lock my tent, so I will just not lock my car when I bed down for the night in the future.

Heating/air conditioning. One of the Prius superpowers is to be able to manage one's little habitat climate so it's cozy inside when outside it is too hot or too cold. Although the car powers on silently when engaging only the battery, it does emit some sound when it periodically switches on the engine to recharge the battery. A number of parks, like Organ Pipe National Monument, where I tried out my camp bed the first time, are very very very quiet parks. And if one is in a generator-ok site, the generator use is restricted to two hours in the late afternoon-early evening and two hours in fairly early morning. So ..... what does that mean for running my Prius when it's too hot or too cold? I don't know yet.

  • It was a wonder to be able to break camp so quickly the next morning!
  • Looking forward to my next outing.

Related posts: 

My New Vehicular Mate, Part 1
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 2
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 3
My New Vehicular Mate, Part 4

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Casa Alitas: "My Name is Elenita"

I was cleaning out a room at Casa Alitas. A family had passed a night or two there, and had since departed to a city somewhere in the United States, into the arms and home of a sponsor, a temporary-permanent place. Safe, presumably. A place to take some deep breaths, maybe get the kids into school.

Among the used bedding, the towels, an errant toothbrush, I saw atop the mattress a notepad.

On the cover, in a blend of letter styles: "Mi nombre es Elenita."

My name is Elenita.

I thought immediately of Hushpuppy, the valiant wee girl who lived in the drowning Louisiana community called The Bathtub, in the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Hushpuppy said:
I see that I'm a little piece of a big, big universe. .... In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her Daddy in The Bathtub.

I smoothed the palm of my hand across Elenita's claim for her seat in the universe.

I thought, this little girl doesn't know it - though maybe she will one day - but she is a little piece of a big, big human wave of other little girls, and of boys, women, and men who are taking part in a natural process, eons old, to lay claim to their places on the planet, to survive and thrive as we all wish to survive and thrive.

Once there was Elenita, who passed through Tucson, Arizona, on her way to her future.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Samaritans: Artist Alvaro Enciso, the Crosses

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

On a Humane Borders water run, I learned about Alvaro Enciso, an artist who has made it a mission to recognize the humanity of individual women, men, and children who have died in the desert in an attempt to claim a decent life.

Mr. Enciso honors the dead with painted wood Crosses that he plants into the Arizona soil.

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

 Each Cross has a round red disk.

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

The round red disk on a Cross represents a round red circle on the death map that Humane Borders maintains in partnership with the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Each round red disk on the death map represents a woman, man, or child who died on their quest for a decent life.  Each round red disk on the death map corresponds to a precise geographic point on the planet where the human remains of a dream were found.

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

There are so many collapsed dreams in the desert, individual collections of bone, sinew, skin, empty clothing, shoes, bags, papers. Maybe plastic baggies with garlic, dissolved in putrescence, to protect one from rattlesnake bites.

Garlic bulbs in a baggie, abandoned by a group of migrants, along with backpacks and other items, perhaps after pick-up by Border Patrol. Arizona. August 2019.

Most Tuesdays, Mr. Enciso leads a one- or two-car pilgrimage into the Sonoran Desert or adjoining highlands. He has selected the women, men, or children whose deaths he will commemorate on a trip, and he brings the day's Crosses with him. Sometimes he knows a fallen person's name, gender, and age; sometimes not.

The color of the painted Crosses vary according to the tint of the paint that someone donated to him or that he picked up somewhere on sale.

Democracy Now recently devoted a show to Mr. Enciso's mission, and I'll direct you there so you can learn more about his work in his own words: 

On the Cross pilgrimage I joined, there were small crews for ABC's Nightline and a freelance documentary company, and, I believe, a print journalist.

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

In all, there were at least 10 of us. Upon arrival near the first site, several of us carried something that was a part of the planting - a bucket, a shovel, quickset concrete. And the Cross. I carried the Cross, grateful to do so. It didn't weigh much, and it felt well-balanced. It rested lightly in the crook of my right arm. I occasionally smoothed the wood with my left hand.

We walked, and I held the Cross, and I thought about this man who had died, and when we arrived at the spot where his remains had been found, it was .... gosh, it was so pretty. 

Alvaro Enciso plants a Cross to honor a man who died seeking a decent life. Arizona. August 2019.

Which doesn't surprise me like it might have long ago. When I think of the Rwandan Genocide, and my friend who survived that cycle of human madness, a question invariably comes to me: "Did birds continue to sing in the forest canopy above the screams of slaughter below"?

Of course they did.

The desert enchants and kills indiscriminately, thus a place for a pretty walk on a pleasant day for one is a place of death from heat stroke or thirst for another.

After Mr. Enciso planted the Cross in that grassy meadow, we embarked on a rather wild ride in the Samaritans' two SUVs up into the highlands, very close to the border. Mr. Enciso sought the last living place of another man, for whom he had brought a Cross. 

A man died in the saddle between those two peaks, in the search for a decent life. August 2019.

But this was not the day it would happen. See that saddle between the two mountains? There's a wide valley between there and the rise where we parked. Volunteer Samaritans would come another day and hike to the man's death ground.

Samaritans left water for women, men, or children who might pass through. A man died in the saddle between those two peaks, in the search for a decent life. August 2019.

The group left jugs of water in and under the shade of a tree, which looked across that valley. Maybe they will save a life. These jugs and barrels of water. They are an act of faith, or maybe more accurately, an act of hope in a lucky roll of metaphysical dice, that someone who needs water will see it and have still the strength to reach it. 

Below is a slide show with more photos from this trip with Mr. Enciso, plus the accumulation of photos from the water runs to the Sonoran Desert via Humane Borders and Samaritans.

Desert Water Runs

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Arizona: Sierra Vista: Our Lady of the Sierras

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

Our Lady of the Sierras - another Arizonan couple compelled to build a church. "Another" in that some weeks earlier, a friend and I visited the Byzantine church on Mount Lemmon, in the town of Summerhaven.

Gosh, gorgeous views from the church.

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

An intimate chapel.

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

Creamy statuary.

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

An imposing Celtic cross.

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

One of my favorite design features is how the windows and votives frame the sky and valley.

Our Lady of the Sierras, Sierra Vista, Arizona. August 2019.

How peaceful it must be to sit in a chair during a service and gaze out the window, while listening to the voice of the Mass celebrants.

A slide show below of Our Lady of the Sierras and of other Sierra Vista sights:

Sierra Vista, Arizona