Friday, May 23, 2008


First and foremost, thanks to everyone for the concern and check-ins. For the record, (1) there was no golf-ball sized hail here in Aurora, although I understand it was that big and larger some ways north, around Greely and Fort Collins, and it might have done some damage had it hit us. And (2), no, I did not get sucked into a tornado, although that, too, happened just a short distance from here. The whizz-bang auto-alert weather radio has been coming to life and squawking every couple hours since late yesterday afternoon.

We did get rained on (a little), thundered at, lit up, and blown around pretty good, and I put the dish down yesterday afternoon as a precaution. The thunderstorms were pretty fierce, and the lightning was less than a mile away, by my reckoning. I estimate the winds at 25-30kts steady, gusting to 50-60 or so. Fortunately, not enough rain to cause any leaks, and most of the destruction was a good distance away.

In anticipation of the next question, yes there is a Red Cross disaster response for the tornado, and I called in to the Disaster Operations Center to let them know I was close and available to help, even though I am not officially "available" right now (we won't go back on the availability list until after the Escapade next month). The response is still being handled by the local chapter, so other than the ECRV crew, no out-of-area volunteers such as myself will be dispatched unless it escalates to something larger.

I am heading into an unprecedented (for us) third night at the same Wal-Mart. And, before anyone reminds me that I've ranted previously about RVers overstaying their welcome at Wal-Marts, I will reiterate what I've said before: that it's a matter of perceptions and managing them, and a lot has to do with how discreet and unobtrusive one is. I'm parked in an isolated part of the lot that is completely unused (and virtually unusable) by store patrons, I show no visible evidence of "camping" (other than the satellite dish being deployed, if that counts), and I'm almost invisible. This is what Odyssey looks like from the road in front of the store:

This is the most prominent angle, a view from elsewhere in the far reaches of the lot:

The store has only two entrances, the main entrance and a small door into the garden center. Odyssey can't be seen at all from the main entrance; this is the view from the garden center:

Obviously, the employees (particularly the stockers in the garden center), security (who rove the lot continuously in a pickup truck with a flashing amber light), and management all know I'm here, but I suspect most customers haven't noticed. Interestingly, I was talking to someone who works at another area Wal-Mart who shared with me that a fifth-wheel has been in their lot for weeks, and management does not seem to have an issue with it.

In any case, circumstances have conspired to keep me here another night, to wit:
  • The mail I am expecting has not arrived, and if and when it does, it will be at a post office just four blocks from here. (There is actually a whole story behind this, which I will relate in a moment.)
  • Long-term parking at DIA, one of my other options for today, was already full when I checked the status around mid-day. So far, the airport has not returned my call about whether oversize vehicles are permitted in the overflow lot, which is now open.
  • Today starts the holiday weekend, and so most other options (e.g. the state park a dozen or so miles from here) are no longer open to me, as they are no doubt full up.
So I have just resigned myself to another night here, which, all things considered, has been a great spot. The only things I haven't been able to do here are the two outdoor projects, and getting the scooters out so I can dust them off (the dirt roads create dust havoc in the bays), start them up, and breeze them out. In the meantime, I've occupied myself with other, stealthier projects, like clearing off and restoring my old Vaio laptop and getting it listed on eBay. The store's doing OK on me, too -- I've been in there five times already, and dropped over a C-note here.

I have my fingers crossed that my mail arrives tomorrow. What I am expecting, BTW, is a Priority Mail package with a pair of DirecTV receivers in it, to try to get our satellite TV service working again. When I called the post office to which I had the package addressed, I discovered they don't accept General Delivery mail there (whoops...), only at the Aurora main office. Nevertheless, they related that they had not seen anything come in. After the requisite mea culpa and some begging, I got them to agree to send it over to the main post office when it comes in, rather than "return to sender."

I called the main post office, just a few blocks from here (the other post office was closer to where I thought I'd be staying, the now-defunct Aurora Elks lodge), and they hadn't seen it either, although they thought it would go directly to the other station if that was how it is addressed. I've left a message with the seller to see if he can get me a tracking number on it. Louise comes back Saturday night -- if the package does not show by Monday, I'll probably let it get returned to sender (it'll sit here for a month, first), and have to do something else about the TV; I've only got $24 invested in it.

For those who've arrived here at our blog from the unclutterer or frugal for life, it may seem strange that I've managed to spend a C-note at a major big-box store (that does not sell groceries). I promise I have violated neither our clutter-free nor our cheap-skate ethos. I've been in the store buying three kinds of things:
  • Parts for broken bits
  • Replacement clothes
  • Some camera upgrades
The broken bits include the HID flood lights, and our extensive first aid kit, which was in a plastic keep-box that is on its last legs, and is prone to popping open at inopportune times. It is also a single large compartment, and that made it hard to re-pack (and know what got used) the last time we had to use it, at a tractor-trailer rollover accident.

I sprang a whopping $5.80 on a transparent plastic toolbox with a tray and some compartments in the lid, and completely reorganized the first aid supplies into it. Now the kit has a handy carry handle (something the old box lacked), and the next time we need to grab it, and the AED, and the fire extinguisher, and whatever else to sprint a hundred yards to an accident scene, it will be easier to do (and the supplies won't end up all over the road). While I was in there I noticed we were short on some dressings, so I went back in and bought those, too. The old keep-box is going to Goodwill; it still has useful life in some less stressful occupation.

Meanwhile Louise just loves the little Canon Powershot SD400 camera that we use for all the photos and videos we put here on the blog. It's the only camera we own, having gotten rid of the last of our film cameras some time ago. It's now a bit long of tooth, having been eclipsed long ago by more powerful, faster, and whizzier models.

Nevertheless, it is perfectly adequate for us -- compact enough to take anywhere, and powerful enough to do even artistic photography, with enough settings to confuse even a pro. And five megapixels is more than enough resolution for our purposes. Lately, however, it's been dying in the middle of shooting -- the battery is at the end of its life. Also, Louise has been taking more and more video (perhaps you'd noticed), and periodically she fills the memory card up, and that's it for shooting until she can unload some of it. (The camera came with something paltry; I put a 1GB card in it right after we bought it, the largest available at the time.) This last happened in the middle of the Red Mountain Pass shoot.

Since I had some extra time on my hands here, I took the camera with me into the store and hunted around until I found the correct battery. ($40 -- gulp. But still much cheaper than a new camera.) I also found a 2GB memory card on super-duper sale for just $16, which will double our video capacity. I'll unload the 1GB card either on eBay or here in the blog. The environmentally unfriendly older Lithium Ion battery we will likely keep as a spare, useful for running the camera while the new one is charging. So I guess that's one additional piece of clutter, but it's incredibly small, and we can't just throw it away anyhow, at least not until we get to someplace that can recycle it.

The replacement clothes, BTW, are due either to the laundry disaster back at Beaudry (OK, so I'm a little slow), or the fact that I've lost some weight and dropped a pants size or two, and I've been slowly replacing them (I know, boo-hoo). Fortunately, there is one of those unattended charity clothing drop boxes right here in the parking lot (see, Wal-Mart does have everything), and I've stuffed several items in there already. Sadly, the Beaudry laundry victims are not even suitable to give away, so I've had to toss most of it, except for a few items useful as rags.

Tomorrow morning I will call both post offices again, crossing my fingers that my package will arrive before closing time. And I will either head to the overflow lot at DIA (if they'll take Odyssey), or orbit the terminals waiting for Louise. (The wait-for-your-party cell-phone lot, which we've used previously while waiting for one of us to land, is now closed to oversized vehicles.)


  1. Oh man, glad to hear you're OK.

    The Datastorm dish is supposed to be OK with wind speeds up to 60 mph when it's up. Hope the wind wasn't that bad where you are.

    Glad we're here in Pagosa, despite the rain and snow this weekend. I'll take these things over tornadoes any day!

    Stay safe.

  2. Where did you get that plastic tool box for $5.80? I loved it. Thanks for letting me know. You sure have an exciting life.

  3. Why not save the card as an overflow/backup? My expirience has been that no matter how large the card, you'll find it full just when "the best picture ever" presents itself.
    The card is so small and thin it can reside in the camera bag without being noticed.

  4. @liveworkdream -- I was actually not worried about the wind so much as having the feedhorn on the dish being the highest metal around during an electrical storm. And while I do not really worry about my safety in such a situation, a discharge through the dish would knock out not only the dish itself, but probably every piece of electronics on board.

    @marilyn -- At Wal-Mart, natch. They're in the tool department, available in clear with lime green accents like mine, clear with vivid blue accents, or opaque safety yellow with black accents. They're pretty cheesy, but fine for what we needed (and better than what we had). The also have a smaller model, opaque red with black accents, for about three dollars less.

    @stephen -- Since we don't use a camera bag at all (the camera is either out on the dashboard on it's tiny little tripod, or in my pocket or Louise's purse), I suspect the extra memory card will just get lost or damaged. The extra battery, on the other hand, has a perfect place to live: in the little charger do-hickey.

    Turns out, BTW, that I have a 512MB card in the Garmin, so I'll put this 1GB card in there and get rid of the 512.


  5. Sean, We try not to get General Delivery in a major city, but to preclude the the hunt like you are going through(as we have too) we use this site for all our GD addresses
    and put in General Delivery as the street address. BTW GD zip code is always xxxx-9999.

  6. Sean, sounds like that you've repurposed the 1 Gig card, but I'll chime in saying that I bet you'll find somewhere to stash that card. Just for that running out of room reason. I use a 1 gig CF card in my work camera, and I keep a 1/4 gig memory stick in the camera in case I forget to reload the CF card when I get out of the car to photograph a building. It lives in the camera full time, and when needed it is a simple flip of a switch to use it.


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