spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity

Standard

Nolagirl and I were going to hang out.

I have to bring my kid to Mesa, she said. She’d been thinking about checking out the free spark! event at the Mesa Arts Center. I told her that was fine with me. Nolagirl always finds the quirkiest, funkiest, grooviest, all-around-most-fun activities in the greater metro area, and I’m pretty open to trying new things. If Nolagirl likes a cultural event, I’m probably going to like it too.

I looked up spark! on the internet. The event’s website says,

This year’s Festival of Creativity will feature an exhibition of 16 art cars, multiple hot rods and lowriders, and interactive arts experiences for people of all ages. spark! celebrates the imaginative spark in all of us, by showcasing Arizona artists and performers and inviting visitors to explore and enjoy live music, aerial dance performances, hands-on experiences, live art-making, installations, demonstrations, a variety of foods, a beer, wine and cocktail area and more.

We arrived at the event around noon. The crowd consisted of a lot of families with kids, but there were plenty of adults without children out there too. I was glad to see the event wasn’t packed; we could still move around just fine and experience everything that was happening.

We entered the festival from Main Street. We could hear the music of the 1950s being performed by Come Back Buddy as we approached. The music was good, and I’m sure I was tapping my foot and swaying my hips, but it was The Night Garden by Jenneva Kayser of Tempe, AZ that really got our attention. We were fascinated by the cacti created from what the aforementioned website calls “woven recycled fabric and translucent porcelain clay.”

As we moved through the Shadow Walk between the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum building and the Ikeda Theater, we encountered another stage where Rising Youth Theatre thespians were performing Light Rail Plays. According the theatre’s website,

Teams of youth and adult artists work together to explore the public transit experience with original plays from a youth perspective…Performers…travel between platforms to maximize the number of people who can experience performances!

We didn’t stop to watch the performance, although we did pause briefly to see the vast array of “food” that festival participants had molded and shaped. The sparks! website calls this participatory activity led by Elliott Kayser a “Community Still-Life in Clay.”

A dining room table set in the style of a classical still-life painting, complete with ceramic serviceware, [was] created prior to the event. During the festival, colorful clay [was] given out to festival-participants with a prompt: to make food that they associate with family tradition. Performers dressed as waiters…compose[d] and arrange[d] the finished “food” within the still-life.

It’s like a coloring page on a car!

A little farther down was a chalkboard car folks could decorate with colored chalk. This interactive experience was the brainchild of artist Kyllan Maney. The sparks! website says this 1981 BMW 528 was

pre-installed with chalkboard paint on the exterior and black lights in the interior. Festival goers [were] invited to color the car in a pre-planned design with chalkboard markers. Vinyl chalkboard shaped birds [were] temporarily adhered to the ground making pathways to the interactive art car, to mimic shadows [of] the birds flying overhead.

When we walked up, volunteers were cleaning off the chalk so newcomers could experience the fun of coloring on a car. We didn’t linger to do any decorating of our own.

The next cool thing we saw was the construction of an art car under the leadership of Harrod Blank, and (apparently very busy) artist Kyllan Maney. The spark! website explains the finished result will be an art car called “Desert Marlin” which was

I love the glass saguaros on this art car.

inspired by the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert. The exterior will be covered with cactus and succulents ranging in size and texture, created out of metal, glass and painted directly on the car. The interior, inspired by the “heart” of the Mesa Arts Center community, will be created by visitors to the festival. They will be invited to create and add a piece to the car during the event.

It was probably when Nolgirl said art car while telling me about the event that I was totally in. It had been a long time since I’d been to an art car event, but I think it’s really cool to take something as ordinary as a motor vehicle and turn it into something original and unique. Nolagirl and I spent probably the next hour looking at each of the sixteen art cars and two art cycles on display in the Arts Center parking lot.  (I’ll be sharing photos and info on my favorite art cars in upcoming blog posts.)

I had so much fun sitting in this chair!

After looking at the art cars, Nolagirl and I went off in search of a restroom. Before we found the restrooms, we found magnificent wobbly chairs. Based on Weeble Wobble technology, the chairs swayed, tipped, and rolled, but never dumped the occupant on the ground. Nolagirl and I both tired out a chair, but I think I enjoyed my experience more. Once I realized I was safe in the chair, I relaxed, leaned back, and had a good ol’ time. I would have played in the chair for the next half hour if little kids hadn’t been waiting their turn.

(I made up the part about Weeble Wobble technology. I mean, yes, there is a certain technology that allows Weebles to wobble but not fall down, but I don’t know if the chairs worked on the same principle.)

We were directed to a restroom in the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. I was surprised to see a proclamation of “free admission” on the door. Admission wasn’t just free on that day, but all the time! Wow! I will remember to take advantage of this free admission if I’m ever in Mesa again.

After our visit to the (very clean) restroom, we decided to spend some time with the museum’s exhibits. I was glad the museum was a manageable size. I go into art overload rather easily, so I was happy to see three rooms of current pieces and be done.

When we left the museum, Nolagirl was hungry, so she ordered some food from the Short Leash Hot Dogs truck. I found an umbrella-shaded table, and ate a LÄRABAR® while I waited. After our lunch, we thought we’d seen it all and started heading back to the car. When we got to Main Street, I asked, Is there more to see over there? so we walked over to check. Yes, there was more to see!

There were more cars over there. They weren’t art cars, but they did have bright and shiny paint jobs and they weren’t like the average cars on the street. These were hot rods and low riders representing different car clubs. I couldn’t find any information about these cards on the sparks! website. Although I’m not a huge car buff, I did enjoy the bright, shiny colors of the automobile exteriors.

We were heading to the corner when we saw a crowd gathered against the rail above the museum’s courtyard. What’s going on over there? we wondered, then saw the women sitting on the museum’s roof. Oh! It looked like we’d be able to catch the last performance of the Dark Sky Aerial  theatre company.

Photo courtesy of Nolagirl.

It was a mesmorizing performance both above and below us. (I’m confident the dancers performing on the ground were part of CaZo Dance Company, but I couldn’t find any information online to confirm this assertion.)

While six performers in white dance and tumbled in the coutyard below, five women in black used the outside walls of the museum as their vertical stage. They flew through the air, harnessed to ropes that both tethered them to the stability of the building and allowed them to soar through the air. In about a dozen minutes, the show was over. Lots of people  were still having fun at the spark! event but for me and Nolagirl, the performance of Dark Sky Aerial and CaZo Dance was a magnificent end to a fun time at the festival.

Photo of me enjoying myself in the titly chair courtesy of Nolagirl.

 

I took the photos in this post, unless otherwise noted.

 

Update on My Brakes

Standard

ancient, antique, antique mapThe Lady of the House and I went on our epic road trip, traveled over 1,000 miles, had a lot of fun. I drove in the rain and the wind and the dust and the dark, and the brakes on the van never let us down. However, the closer we got to home, the more the brakes began to squeal. They squealed loudly. They squealed embarrassingly loudly. Whenever I pulled up to a red light or a stop sign, I felt the eyes of pedestrians and other drivers turn toward my van.

We returned on a Saturday afternoon, and the noise from my brakes was scary. The Lady encouraged me to call the one mechanic in town I knew and trusted and ask him to check my brakes. I really wanted to remain in denial. My money was nearly gone, even though The Lady had picked up most of the expenses of the trip. I was afraid the brakes would need some costly fix. However, I knew The Lady was right. If there was a problem with the brakes, I needed to address it before I started my journey to my seasonal job on the mountain. I called the mechanic and explained my situation. As usual, he was upbeat. He said he’d be glad to “take a peek” at my brakes.

I showed up at 8:30 on the appointed morning. When I reminded him that my guy had recently done a brake job on the van, he asked me if The Man had done anything to the roters or if it had been a pad slap job. I thought a moment. I didn’t remember any talk of rotors. I didn’t remember any videos about roters. I wasn’t even sure what the rotors looked like or what they did. Pad slap, I told him.

He said maybe the problem was just a mismatch of the old rotor surface against the new brake pad surface. I felt a glimmer of home that maybe things were not as bad as I had been fearing.

The mechanic had my van in his shop while I sat nervously in his tiny, grungy waiting area. When I saw him again, he said nothing was wrong with my brakes. He said the parts were installed correctly and the brakes were working properly. He asked if I’d bought the cheapest brake pads, and I couldn’t remember. I told him I thought I’d bought something from the middle of the price choices.

They’re AutoZone brake pads, he shrugged. Apparently AutoZone brake pads are notorious for causing noise. The mechanic said the “gold” AutoZone brand brake pads are supposed to be better because they are made by a manufacturer that also makes name brand brake pads. The mechanic said he’s been given AutoZone brand brake pads in the past to try out, and his customers complained about the noise. He assured me again that my brakes were working fine.

Use them until they wear out, he told me about the new pads. They probably have a lifetime warranty. When they wear out, AutoZone will give you another set.

Maybe I’ll grow accustomed to the squeal.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/ancient-antique-antique-map-atlas-269646/.

 

Working on Your Rig

Standard

Greyscale Photography of Car Engine So you’ve decided to do maintenance or a repair on your rig. Good for you! You’ll not only save money, you’ll have the satisfaction of learning more about your rig. I bet you’ll also fee more confident and self-reliant.

But what can you do if you’re an absolute beginner who’s never spent a day of your life working on a motor vehicle? Today I’ll share a dozen tips to get you started working on your rig.

#1 Buy a repair manual specific to your rig. Chilton and Haynes manuals are probably the best known options. The Motor Bookstore sells repair manuals for a wide variety of makes and models of cars, trucks, and vans. Some auto parts stores also sell manuals for popular vehicles.

CH28642 Chilton General Motors Full -Size Vans 1987-1997 Repair Manual
The internet and particulalry YouTube can be extremely useful (see #2 and #3 below), but there’s nothing like pouring over a detailed diagram big enough to see clearly while never worrying about running out of battery power.

In researching this post, I discovered the Chilton DIY website. By filling in blanks for the year, make, and model of a vehicle, then paying either $24.95 for the 30 day plan or $29.95 for the one year plan, one ostensibly gains access to an online manual. I have not used the manual provided by this website, so I cannot recommend it or warn you against it. Personally, I would rather plunk down $25.50 for a paper copy of a manual that I could utulize for however long I have my van, but I suppose the electronic version works best for some folks.

#2 Do internet research. There are a vast number of automotive repair articles on the web. You can certainly find at least basic information on how to diagnose and repair most problems. (Just remember, anyone can write an article about anything and post it online. I recommend reading several articles on the same topic and comparing info before jumping into a repair or maintenance project.)

Automotive forums can also be a big help. Search forums for questions and answers about the problem you’re having or how to do the job you want to undertake. Don’t see any information about your particular task? Join the appropriate forum and ask for the help you need.

If you’re a vandweller and belong to any of the many vandweller Facebook groups, ask the folks in the group for advice. Sure, there are lots of trolls in those groups, but there are also many helpful, knowledgeable people in the groups too. Reading about the experiences of others can be quite helpful in diagnosing a problem or making a repair.

#3 YouTube videos can be invaluable. My guy recently learned how to replace and adjust drum brakes by watching videos on YouTube. Seeing the actual physical actions you need to make can be extremely helpful to a novice mechanic, while being able to rewind and rewatch a critical component of the process can be indispensable.

(Again, remember anyone can post a video saying anything s/he wants about any aspect of car repair; people aren’t necessarily experts just because they post videos. Watch several videos on any topic and make sure crucial information is basically the same from differnt sources.)

#4 Get the right parts. In my experience, folks who work in parts stores are very helpful and knowledgable and can pull the right parts based on basic information provided by the customer like the year, make, model, and engine size of the vehicle being repaired. I usually go to AutoZone if I have a choice, but I’ve received fine service (and usually the right parts!) at all the chain parts-supply stores I’ve shopped at.

Some people buy their auto parts off the internet. I’ve never done that, so I don’t have much advice, other than do your research carefully so you can order the appropriate items.

#5 Have the right tools for the job before you start. This is an area where your research will pay off. What toolsSet of Tool Wrench are recommended by your manual? What tools are the people in the videos using? Don’t hesitate to ask workers at auto parts stores about the tools you will need for the job you want to do. If you would rather not buy a new tool you hope to never use again, ask a worker about any alternatives. Recently when The Man did a brake job on my van, the guy at AutoZone suggested he use a C-clamp to compress the calipers instead of buying a fancy tool to do the same job.

#6 Gather everything else you need to get the job done. Replacing a radiator hose? You may need coolant to replace what leaks out when you remove the old hose. Doing a brake job? Don’t forget brake cleaner and anti-seize lubricant. Again, do your research, ask at the parts store, and make sure you have all your supplies on hand before you get started.

#7 Enlist a helper. Believe me, you are not going to want to get up and down 15 times during the course of your repair or maintenance work. Tools will need to be fetched, you won’t want to touch things that need to stay clean with your dirty hands, and you will probably want a cold drink during some part of the job. Things will go faster and more smoothly if you have a helper willing to fetch and hand over tools and parts.

#8 Take safety precautions. Engage the emergency brake. Chock the tires. Use a jack that’s strong enough and high enough to lift your rig. Once the rig is lifted, hold it up with jack stands that are strong enough and high enough for the job. (See the Arrive Alive website for more safety advice when working on your vehicle.)

#9 Be prepared to make another trip to the parts store. You might not have a tool you need. (For me and The Man, it was an extender for a rachet while trying to tighten a radiator hose.) You might discover the part in the box isn’t what it’s supposed to be. (This happened to me once when I provided the parts to a Sears service center; the manufacturer had put the wrong part in the box.) You might forget the oil filter or the special lube or the extra coolant. Plan to make at least one additional trip and be pleasantly surprised if all goes well and you don’t have to go back to the parts store.

Stainless Steel Close Wrench on Spanner#10 Take photographs of the status quo before you start pulling things apart. You many think you’ll be able to remember how the components fits together, but you may find yourself confused after things have been pulled apart. It’s easy enough to take a few photos from a few different angles with your phone. Use the technology you probably already have on hand to give yourself a visual reference of how everything actually fits back together.

#11 As you take things apart, put pieces down in a logical fashion. If the spring came from the left side of the brake system, set it down on your left. Again, you many think it will be easy to remember where everything goes, but keeping parts organized will probabaly save you time and aggrevation in the end.

#12 Don’t throw your tools or new parts in the dirt. If you can’t work on clean concrete, put a tarp or a large piece of cardboard or a thin piece of wood under your work space. Keep your tools and new parts as clean as possible.

There you go! That’s everything I know about preparing to work on your rig. The rest is up to you. Good luck!

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/greyscale-photography-of-car-engine-190574/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/set-of-tool-wrench-162553/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/stainless-steel-close-wrench-on-spanner-210881/.

Blaize Sun is not an auto-mechanic. She’s offering you suggestions in this post. You have to figure out for yourself what works best for you and your rig. Blaize Sun assumes no responsibiliy for your actions.

.

Van Problems (Part 2)

Standard

I shared the beginning of my story of van problems yesterday. Today I’ll tell you the rest of the story.

It was four o’clock when we finally arrived at the shop. When I’d originally talked to the owner of the shop, he said he’d start the job that day and finish it the next, which seemed reasonable to me. Of course, that had been at 11am. Now it was 4pm. I figured he wouldn’t get started until the next day.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, I waited all day for a call. At 4:15 that afternnon, I called the shop and asked about the status of my van. The guy who answered the phone said he didn’t know anything about my van, but would find out. He took my phone number and said he would call back. He never did.

At 4:35, The Man and I decided to go to the garage to check on the van. The Man was opposed, but I was determined. The Man thinks mechanics get tired of people calling to find out if their vehicles are ready. He thinks mechanics get pissed when they’re bothered. I believe I’m in a business transaction with the mechanic who owes me basic communication about the status of my vehicle. He should have told me my place in the repair lineup when I dropped off the van. If the repair (which he originally said would take about four hours) was going to take more than one business day, someone should have called and let me know. And if the shop policy is that no information about the status of a vehicle is given over the phone, the fellow who took my call should have explained that to me. It’s not right for someone to say they’re going to call back but never do so!

I walked up to the counter of the parts store adjacent to the repair shop moments before closing time. When I asked about my van, no one behind the counter knew anything. The boss was in the office, one of the guys told me. He was busy, but I could wait.

I waited. I waited some more. I waited silently and looked at mysterious auto parts while I waited. I saw mechanics punch out and go home for the day.

Finally, the boss came out of the office. He looked at me and said, Ma’am, your truck is not ready.

Might it be ready tomorrow? I asked

I’ll call you when it’s ready, he told me.

I thanked him and left without another word.

That was Tuesday.

On Wednesday I waited. I waited and waited and waited. The Man was sure the van wold be ready by noon or 1:30 at the latest. I waited and waited and waited. There was no phone call from the repair shop.

On Thursday I asked The Man how late I should wait to call the repair shop and ask them if I should cancel my (only partially imaginary) appointment that afternoon in the city. The Man was adament I should not call and ask about the progress of the van. The man said he’d call you when it’s ready, he reminded me. You probably already pissed him off when you went in on Tuesday. I maintained the mechanic should communicate with me so I could make plans and organize my life. The Man and I agreed we should not discuss the situation any further.

The Man said the Universe was trying to teach me patience and acceptance. Maybe so, but I have to say, I’m a pretty lousy student.

By 1:30, on Thursday afternoon, I’d heard nothing from the mechanic, and even The Man thought the whole situation had gotten ridiculous. They’d had my van a really long time to do what I’d been told was a four hour job.

At 3:55, I couldn’t wait any longer. I’m calling them, I told The Man grimly. I’ll just say I need to know if I should cancel my plans for the weekend.

I called the shop. I told the guy who answered the phone the make and model of my van and said I wanted to check on it.

Oh yeah, he said. Your van is ready. He didn’t say they had finished the repair two minutes ago and were just about to call me. He didn’t apologize for the delay. He didn’t explain anything, but by then all I really cared about was picking up the van and hitting the road.

I didn’t talk to a mechanic when I picked up the van. I paid the young woman working in the parts store adjacent to the garage. On my receipt was a list of the parts used and their prices, but no indication that the back brakes had been adjusted as I requested when I’d dropped off the van. At The Man’s insistance, I went back in and asked the young guy working in the parts store if the brakes had actually been adjusted, and he assured me they had. He said he’d actually seen a mechanic doing the adjusting.

I got my things out of The Man’s vehicle and threw everything into my van. I was ready to go!

About 10 miles into my drive, The Man called me and suggested I stop the van and check for smoke or a burning smell coming from the brakes. I pulled over and hopped out of the van. I went to the rear tire on the drivers side. I saw no smoke. Sniff! Sniff! I didn’t smell anything weird. The drivers side seemed good.

I walked over to the passenger side. There was no smoke. Good. Sniff! Sniff! I smelled something artificial, plastic and hot, but it wasn’t overwhelming, so I decided to keep going. What else could I do? I was in the middle of nowhere out in the desert.

As I drove towards the small outpost of civilization that was the next town, I was paranoid (some would say hyper vigilant) about smells. Did I smell something? Was the smell coming from me or from another car on the road? How much smell from the brakes was too much smell from the brakes? The brakes seemed to be working fine, so I kept going.

When I got to the town, I pulled in at the truck stop to sniff at the tires again, then use the restroom. I went directly to the tire on the passenger side, and it definitely smelled hot and artificial. I’d never sniffed my tires before. Maybe that’s the way they always smelled?

I called The Man to confer, and as I came around the front of the van, I saw a dreaded puddle on the concrete just under my bumper. Had that come from my van, or had it been left behind by the previous occupant of the parking space? I crouched down to examine the moisture. It was very wet and seemingly fresh. Also, parts of the van’s undercarriage appeared wet too. As I watched, a few drops dripped from my van onto the ground.

I didn’t even cry. I was beyond crying. The whole mess kept going on and on and on, and it looked like I’d never go on the road trip.

After conferring with The Man and The Lady of the House, I formulated a plan. I’d sleep in my van where it was parked at the truck stop. First thing in the morning, I’d find a mechanic in the town to check everything out.

The next day, after a couple of false states, I found a shop where I could get the van checked.

The boss was probably in his 60s, pudgy with thin white hair. He had watery, red-rimmed blue eyes and a bulbous nose marked by tiny red blood vessels just below the skin. He told me where to park the van and said someone would look at it in about 45 minutes when the current job was complete.

The fellow who came out to look at the van was youmger, probably early 30s. He had a reddish brown beard and a face full of faded freckles. His unfortunate tangle of teeth seemed to make talking difficult. He slid under my van, and when I went over to give him some information, I saw he had the stub of a lit cigarette clutched between his lips. Is that a good idea? I wondered.

The mechanic found no leak, even after the van ran long enough to get the engine up to running temperature. The brake was fine too. He thought I was smelling the factory coating on the brake pads burning off. He posited the liquid on the ground had drained from the old water pump when it was removed. Ok. If he said everything was ok, I was willing to go with it.

What do I owe you? I asked the mechanic.

Ask the old man, he said, gesturing to the office where the boss had gone.

I went inside and told the boss his guy hand’t found any problems.

What do I owe you? I asked him.

Nothing, he said. We didn’t do anything.

Oh thank you! I gushed.

Finally, I could start my road trip.

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/phone-old-year-built-1955-bakelite-1644317/, https://pixabay.com/en/paper-business-document-office-3327341/, and https://pixabay.com/en/car-repair-car-workshop-repair-shop-362150/.

Van Problems (Part 1)

Standard

I had van problems on April 1st, and it was no April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, the problems went on well into the first week of the month.

The Man had already done a full brake job–front and back–and it was no easy task. The front brakes were pretty simple, but those back drum brakes–Lord! The brakes were done, and now he just had to stop the coolant leak in the front.

The coolant leak had started a week or so before. I’d driven the van to the laundry room. When I returned home, The Man asked, What’s that? while pointing to the liquid dripping into the dirt. We thought the lower radiator hose was loose, so he tightened the hell out of it and called it good. I drove the ten miles to town to run a few errands and didn’t see any leak, However, when I got home, fluid was dripping from under the van at a quick and steady rate. Don’t worry, The Man said. We’ll get a new hose. I’ll put it on for you.

We got the hose, but with one thing and another, it was nearly a week before The Man installed it.

First came the brake jobs–first one on my van, then the back brakes on The Man’s minivan. The Man had never replaced back brakes before. I never had either. He watched videos on YouTube. He took photos of the brakes before he took them apart. Still, the job was a challenge, and there was a learning curve to get past. I was impressed by his perseverance and attention to detail, but I was ready for the whole brake experience to be over. I know The Man felt the same way.

We thought he was finished with my brakes, but after spending all day working on his and learning a couple of new drum brake replacement tricks from videos, he decided my brakes needed more adjustment. He said he’d do the brake adjustment after he got the new hose on.

He got under the van and used brute force to tighten the new hose. We drove down to a friend’s house to pick up a mattress she was giving me. When we got to her place (less than half a mile away), we saw fluid coming out from under the van. The Man was mystified; he thought he’d tightened the hose pretty good. I drove the van back home and we let it cool before The Man crawled back under the van. There was more tightening, some coolant in The Man’s eye (no damage, thank goodness!), frustration. Finally, he got the hose clamps even tighter. Hopefully the problem was solved.

We loaded our big garbage can into the van so we could dump it while we were driving around waiting for the engine to heat up. We deposited the trash in a dumpster, then drove back home. Fluid was still dripping from underneath the van. I think it’s gotten worse, I said.

By that time, the sun was almost down, and The Man shook his head. He was tired, but the real problem was getting his big hand into the appropriate small space. He couldn’t get the leverage he needed. He needed an extender for the ratchet he was using. We’d have to go to town the next day to get one.

Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem to finish tomorrow what we hadn’t completed today, but I was supposed to leave on a road trip on April 1st. I was supposed to meet The Lady of the House that very afternoon and start the next day on an epic two week adventure. I was disappointed, but not devastated. I’d have to drive a couple of hours longer than planned the next day, but we could still get where we needed to go when we needed to be there. We’ll have you on the road tomorrow by noon, The Man told me.

On Monday we drove to town in The Man’s minivan and paid too much for a set of ratchet extenders, even though we only needed one. We didn’t have any options in that small desert town. We drove home, and The Man got under my van again. He used the ratchet on the extender and all of his power to tighten the clamps on the hose. He was confident the problem had been solved.

Drive the van until you get it up to temperature, he told me. Don’t stop anywhere.

I did as instructed. He was waiting for me when I pulled into the driveway. I saw him glance at the ground, and I saw his face fall. I jumped out of the van. Coolant was dripping heavy and steady from under the van.

It must be the water pump, The Man said. He looked as demoralized as I felt.

I called the auto repair shop in the closest town and explained my situation. When I told the owner of the place the make and model of my van, he said he’d changed water pumps on those vehicles before: It’s a pain in the ass, to put it mildly. He told me he had the water pump my van needed in stock and quoted me a price. I told him I’d get back to him.

I got off the phone and gave The Man the news. He said he’d never changed a water pump and it might take him three days to do it. He said he didn’t really want to do the job. I totally understood. He was already burnt out on automotive repair, and I didn’t want to wait three days for him to get the new pump put in. I wanted to be on the road ASAP.

I called the repair shop and told the owner I wanted him to make the repairs. I asked him if he thought I could drive the van slowly and make it the dozen or so miles to his shop. He said I could try driving it if I wanted to. If you burn up your engine, he told me, I’ll sell you a new engine. I told him I’d get it towed.

I have my auto insurance with Progressive. For a small fee, I have roadside assistance coverage. With that coverage, I can get locksmith services if I lock my keys in the van, I can get a flat rire replaced with my spare, and I can ge the van towed within 15 miles of its broke down location. So I called Progressive roadside assistance and told the friendly representative where I was and where I needed to go. She told me she’d text me the name of the company that would provide the tow and the truck’s ETA.

I waited an hour, and no text came. I called the Progressive roadside assistance toll free number and spoke to a differnt representative who told me the first representative was still working on my case and would send the text in the next ten to twelve minutes. I said thanks and we ended the call. An hour later I still hadn’t received a text, so I called again and reached a woman who said she’d figure out what was going on and call me back.

She called me back within ten minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to accept the call on my new phone. I got three calls within as many minutes, but I couldn’t answer the phone.

I called Progressive again and the representative transfered me to a supervisior who’d been working on my case. He said because of my remote location, they were haing trouble getting a tow truck out to me. He said only one company in town would take the call, the boss was at lunch, and the driver couldn’t leave!

I don’t blame the roadside assitance people for the delay. I was certainly in a remote location. There may have only been one tow truck in the whole town. I just wish the second representative I talked to had figured out what was going on and given me an honest assement of the facts.

Finally, the tow truck arrived and loaded my van. The Man drove his minivan behind the truck, and I watched my van make its slow way into town.

This is an epic tale! I’ll share the rest of the story tomorrow.

Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/auto-repair-workshop-brake-disc-1954636/, https://pixabay.com/en/wrench-sockets-tools-workshop-2619217/, and https://pixabay.com/en/hand-mechanic-carburetor-707699/.

 

 

Rockhound State Park (NM)

Standard

I’d been hearing about  Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM ever since I’d started hanging around rock people in Taos. It was a state park, they’d tell me with wonder in their voices, where you could mine for New Mexico minerals. Maybe I’m just a Negative Nelly, but I doubted there would be many shiny rocks left in the park after thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of visitors had already taken home all they wanted.

I finally got to visit Rockhound State Park in December 2017. I was heading west from Truth or Consequences, NM, and I had a state parks pass, so I decided to spend the night in the park’s campground. I arrived late in the day, so I didn’t stop at the visitor center. I didn’t go to the visitor center the next day either. I can’t remember exactly why. I remember I was sad because of recent relationship troubles, so I guess I was content to stay close to my van home.

When I pulled into the campground late on a Sunday afternoon, most of the developed campsites without electricity were occupied. I didn’t want to pay an additional $4 for electricity I didn’t need, so I was happy to get what seemed to be the last available basic developed site. My site was close to the day use parking area and the adjacent trail. My site was also within walking distance of a clean pit toilet. I was grateful to have a flat spot to park my van.

This photo shows the view of the campground from the beginning of the Jasper Trail. I was camped next to the first ramada on the left in the foreground of the photo.

The campsites are quite close together in the area where I found my spot. During my first evening there, I very clearly heard my next door neighbor’s side of a phone conversation. He was sitting outside near his large rig, but I could hear him so easily, he might as well have been sitting at my picnic table. By the sound of his accent, he was from Wisconsin or Minnesota, and he wasn’t too impressed with the campground we were in. He and his wife preferred Oliver Lee State Park, he told the person on the other end of his conversation. I would have preferred silence, but I guess we were both destined to be dissatisfied that night.

I drove around the campground while looking for a site, but once I found my place, I didn’t venture away from my loop. I just didn’t feel motivated to walk around the campground. I suppose I wanted to stay close to the security of my cozy home. I certainly didn’t want to experience yet another cold New Mexico state park shower, so I didn’t seek out the bathhouse.

The loud Midwesterner and his lady left in the morning and I had a few hours of quiet early in the day. I cooked some breakfast, then tidied the van. I planned to leave the next day, and I wanted to be rested upon departure.

In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk on the nearby Jasper Trail. The trail started just across the pavement from my van, so I didn’t have far to go to get to it. I wasn’t so interested in the trail itself, but I did feel like I needed some exercise. I wanted to stretch my legs and get my blood circulating.

I walked for maybe half an hour. I saw scrubby bushes, cacti, and some rock formations, but no cool shiny rocks. I wasn’t really looking for shiny rocks, and I didn’t get off the trail, so I’m not really surprised that I didn’t find anything I wanted to load into the van. I’m sure a lot of people had walked that trail before me and any nice rocks were long gone from the immediate vicinity.

This photo shows a view of the jagged rocks I saw from the Jasper Trail.

The State Parks website says of Rockhound State Park,

Located on the rugged west slope of the Little Florida Mountains, Rockhound State Park is a favorite for “rockhounds” because of the abundant agates and quartz crystals found there.

I suspect folks who are interested in collecting rock specimens in the park know where to look to increase their chances of finding what they want. Perhaps the workers at the visitor center advise rockhounds on where to dig for the minerals they seek.

Not long after I returned to my camp, a loud, slightly dilapidated, medium-size motor home pulled into the campground. I noticed it right away. It circled the campground, then chose the site right next to mine. To be fair, the site right next to mine may have been the only available one in the place.

After the loud conversation from next door the night before, I was hoping for a quiet evening. Unfortunately, the man who disembarked from the noisy moter home was not a quiet man. Fortunately (for me at least), he latched onto the couple on the other side of him. The man was loud and animated and quite possibly on meth. There was just something about him that made me want to avoid eye contact.

The motorhome man built a campfire and convinced his other neighbors to sit around it with him. I avoided eye contact with all of them by keeping my head down while I cooked dinner. When my meal was ready, I ate it in my van. Once the dishes were washed, I got in my van and locked the doors. At some point the newcomer settled down and went into his own rig, where he was quiet enough not to disturb me for the rest of the night.

I was out of the campground the next morning before check-out time. I had a list of thrift stores I wanted to visit before I left Deming, and I was on a schedule, so my time of lingering was over. The motorhome man didn’t bother me, for which I was thankful.

I would stay at Rockhound State Park again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay there. It was a fine campground, but not spectacular in any way I noticed.

I took all the photos in this post.

How to Eat Healthy on the Road (When You Don’t Have Time to Cook)

Standard

Can you bear another post about food?

I know I’ve been sharing a lot about food and cooking lately, but it’s such an important topic to all humans and especially to people who aren’t sure how they will stay healthy while living a nomadic life. I promise next Wednesday I’ll offer a blog post for rubber tramps that is not related to food, but today I’d like to offer some tips for eating healthy when you’re on the road and you don’t have time to cook.

It’s happened to most of us without a built-in kitchen. We’re traveling in our van or car and can’t find a park or rest area where we can stop and pull out the stove and food and pots and pans and cook ourselves a healthy meal. Maybe we’re traveling in an RV and we could stop anywhere and cook, but we’re on a deadline and can’t take the time to prepare a meal. What’s a nomad trying to eat healthy to do? Today I’ll share ten tips on how to eat well when you’re on the road and don’t have time to cook.

almond, almonds, food#1 Have healthy foods available for snacking or a picnic lunch. You can eat nuts, an apple, carrot sticks, or a LÄRABAR while driving. If you have a few minutes to stop at a gas station or rest area, spread the nut butter of your choice on whole grain bread or have hummus and crackers with carrots or grapes.

#2 If you’re not prepared for a picnic, stop at a supermarket en route. Most big supermarkets have hummus in the cold case, organic fruit and veggies in the produce section, and healthy (or at least healthier) snacks on their own special aisle. If you can find a big supermarket, you should be able to eat well on the fly.

#3 Cook while you’re driving with 12-volt appliances. Truckers have known about 12-volt cookers for years, but now vandwellers and other rubber tramps can use the technology too. The Global Trucker internet store shows a 12-volt slow cooker, a 12-volt sandwich maker, a 12-volt frying pan, a 12-volt “Stove To Go,” and several 12-volt grills. While you probably shouldn’t be grilling veggies or frying tofu while you’re driving, you could be cooking beans in a slow cooker while you’re literally on the road. What could be better than pulling into a rest area and having a hot meal ready for your eating pleasure?

#4 If you have a kitchen in your rig that allows you to cook anywhere, but sometimes find yourself without the time you need to prepare a meal, how about trying a pressure cooker? While I do own a pressure cooker, I just use it as a regular pot.  A friend of mine has a pressure cooker that she uses as the manufacturer intended and she loves it. She can cook dried beans in a mere fraction of their usual cooking time.

#5 If you’re stopping at a gas station anyway, grab some super hot water from the spout near the coffee pots and add it to instant oatmeal, noodles, or soup. Most large gas stations have coffee systems which include hot water dispensers. If you’re not sure you can have water for free, offer to pay for it when you step up to the cash register. Instead of bringing my food into the gas station, I carry a travel mug with lid or even a heavy plastic bottle in, collect some hot water, and take it back to my rig with me.

Instant noodles and soups may be quick, but mainstream brands aren’t always good for us. The Food Revolution Network website says ramen noodles are

incredibly high in sodium, calories and saturated fat.

Thai Kitchen Instant Rice Noodle Soup, Garlic and Vegetables, 1.6-Ounce Unit (Pack of 12)
I like healthier instant options like Thai Kitchen, and Dr. McDougall’s. I haven’t tried Edward and Sons miso cup instant soups, but they do seem convenient and healthier than conventional instant soup options. Of course, you are probably not going to find any of these brands in a truck stop or gas station, so plan ahead and have some of these instant options stashed in your rig.

If restaurant food is absolutely your only choice, try to do some damage control.

#6 Taco Bell serves bean burritos, which you can order with no cheese if you’re eschewing animal products. Of course, the burritos are made with flower tortillas, which many think are less than healthy. Taco Bell also offers the Pintos N Cheese side dish. Again, ask for no cheese if you’ve gone vegan. Eat the pintos with some nutritious blue corn chips you already have in your van. For other tips on eating vegan at Taco Bell, see the Green Plate article on the topic. Also, Taco Bell lets customers order nearly everything on the menu “Fresco style.” The restaurant’s website says,

Almost any menu item can be customized “Fresco style”, which replaces mayo-based sauces, cheeses, reduced-fat sour cream and guacamole on almost any menu item with freshly-prepared pico de gallo. By removing these ingredients and ordering your menu item “Fresco style”, you can reduce fat by up to 25%.

If the exit you just took only offers a Del Taco, similar substitutions and omissions can help you eat fast and (relatively) healthy. An article on the PETA website offers a guide to vegan options at that restaurant.

#7 This tip was supposed to be about the veggie burger at Burger King, but a July 2016 article on the PETA2 website says the veggie patty is not vegan. (To find out what is vegan at the King, click on the link above.) The Burger King website says the “meat” of the burger is a ” MorningStar Farms® Garden Veggie Patty.” Also, a standard condiment on the veggie burger is mayonnaise, which definitely contains eggs. Perhaps if Burger King is your only dining option, the veggie burger might be better for you than other items on the menu. Maybe.

If Wendy’s is an option, you can find a few animal-product-free choices there. According to a comprehensive guide to vegan options at fast food and chain restaurants on the PETA website, Wendy’s offers

a plain baked potato, the garden side salad with red Italian dressing, or French fries. You can also ask for a veggie sandwich, which has everything that would normally be included on the burger except the meat—there’s even a button for it on the cash register.

#8 As of 2016, there were almost 27,000 Subway restaurant across the United States, meaning you have a pretty good chance of running across one in your travels. PETA2 offers a guide to vegan eating at Subway. The article tells you what bread and condiment options at the restaurant contain no animal products. Once you know that information, you can stuff any veggies you want into your sandwich, or skip the bread altogether and get a salad.

If you can get to a Quiznos more easily than a Subway, the aforementioned PETA guide to vegan options at fast food and chain restaurants says,

Quiznos offers a veggie sub that’s filled with guacamole, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and mushrooms—just be sure to order it without the cheese and ask for the balsamic vinaigrette…The vegan bread options include white or wheat, and there’s also an herb wrap.

#9 If you’re popping into a coffee shop for a cup of joe, both Starbucks and Panera offer vegan food.

I hardly ever go into Starbucks, and I don’t think I’ve ever ordered food there. However, PETA offers an entire guide about how to order vegan at Starbucks. In addition to telling you how to get your drinks made without animal products, the guide lists all the vegan food products the chain offers, including the

lentils & vegetable protein bowl with brown rice; avocado spread; classic and blueberry oatmeal; dried fruit; fruit salad; mixed nuts; Overnight Grains; roasted almonds; and plain, sprouted grain, cinnamon raisin, and multigrain bagels.

I love, love, love Panera and go there every chance I get. The bakery chain offers more than just coffee and bagels and is known for its commitment to healthy eating. Panera’s own website includes a list of vegan offerings, as well as what customizations can be made to remove animal products from one’s plate. Some of the always-vegan fare include,

plain, blueberry, cranberry walnut, poppyseed, and sesame bagels; black pepper focaccia; sea salt focaccia; country, rye, sesame semolina, and sourdough breads; French baguette; hoagie roll; peach & blueberry smoothie with almond milk; vegan lentil quinoa bowl, and soba noodle broth bowl with edamame blend.

#10 In the case of a real vegan emergency, an article on the Spoon University website shares “What You Can (Probably) Eat at McDonald’s if You’re Vegan.” Of the four items on the list, one is “Draaanks,” which is not food.  What else is on the list? Hint: not fries! If I were a strict vegan, I would only stop at a McDonald’s to use the restroom. However, the Very Vegan Recipes website outlines how to mix and match vegan items from the fast food giant’s vegan options to make a custom vegan menu item.

I hope these tips give you ideas and inspiration for eating the healthiest food possible when you’re on the road and simply can’t cook.

Blaize Sun is not telling you what to do. Blaize Sun is merely making suggestions. Do what works best for your body, your health, and your life. You know yourself better than Blaize Sun ever will, so eat accordingly.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-healthy-almond-almonds-57042/. The other images is an Amazon affiliates link. If you click on the link, then do your regular Amazon shopping, I will receive a small advertising fee at no cost to you.

 

Drawing Room

Standard

Nolagirl and I were walking towards the Mesa Arts Center on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

I want to go look at that rocketship thing, I told her.

Right there by the lightrail stop? she confirmed.

I explained I’d taken phots of it in 2016. but I didn’t have any information about the artist. I wanted to find the name of the piece or the name of the artist or something.

We walked across the street, and Nolagirl gazed at the art. I wouldn’t have called it a rocketship, she said, but I get it.

I suspected it wasn’t supposed to represent a rocketship, but that was the closest comparision I could come up with. The round, tapering shape suggested a 1950s concept of space travel to me.

I couldn’t find any permanent information about the art, but Mesa was having a silly event where folks could interact via text with inanimate objects downtown. This piece of art was part of the project, so I was able to find the artist’s name in a cirlce on the ground.

Nolagirl actually texted this object as I was looking for information and taking photographs. Their exchange was rather boring. We were totally over it when the sculpture asked what business we wanted to see downtown. A free box! I chimed in, but I think Nolagirl had already told the art something else.

These faces belong to real people. Those people are part of the Mesa community.

The art piece does have a name, although I couldn’t find it anywhere in the area. (I didn’t go up on the actual lightrail stop waiting area where the seats are. Maybe the name of the art is somewhere over there.) According to Ralph Helmick’s website, the piece is called Drawing Room. The website explains about the faces on the piece.

Its walls are comprised of graphic cutout silhouettes of an inclusive array of actual Mesa citizens. Each profile occupies an oval frame that connects with its neighbors, the collective creating a soaring web of community.

I think it’s really cool that the silhouettes are of actual people who live in Mesa. I wonder how the folks were recruited. I wonder if folks ever scrutinize this piece of art to find their own image or the image of a loved one.

Helmick’s website also says,

Taking the shape of a giant conic form of perforated metal, viewers recognize it as a visual beacon from blocks away and walk underneath while passing to and from the light rail.

You can definitely see this piece from blocks away. It’s a good landmark for not just the lightrail stop, but the Mesa Arts Center as well. I definitely noticed that it’s a portal. To get on the train or return to Downtown Mesa, commuters have to pass through this portal of community.

You must pass through this portal of community to catch your train.

 

The website mentions another thing I’d noticed.

Viewers looking up from beneath the sculpture may draw parallels between our interest in the expansive mysteries of the universe and our quest for civility and fellow-feeling here on earth.

Well, ok, I didn’t draw any parallels or think any deep thougths, but I did notice that it’s really cool to stand within the sculpture and look up, up, up all the way to the hole in the top. The experience is a little dizzying, but very, very cool, especially when light and shadows are playing on the metal.

The CODAworx website says

Ralph Helmick is a sculptor and public artist.

Since his first public art commission in the mid-1980’s – the Arthur Fiedler Memorial, on Boston’s Esplanade – he has worked in various materials (including metal, stained glass, cast resin, and found objects) to create large-scale public sculpture in parks, schools, museums, and other public spaces across the US.

As I did research on Drawing Room and Helmick, I was surprised to see the artist had created another sculpture I know. Helmick is also responsible for the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial on Town Lake in Austin, TX. I’ve visited that staute before. The muscian wears a poncho and a big hat with a brim running all the way around it. Austin folklore has it that as a tribute to Vaughan, fans leave joints on the brim of his hat. I suppose it works as a sort of “take a joint, leave a joint” gift economy, because I was told to always reach up and search for a joint. I suppose if there’s one up there, the finder smokes it in Vaughan’s name. When I visited the statue, I reached up, but didn’t find any treats on the hat.

I took the photos of Drawing Room in this post. My friend Lou took the photos of the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial. Thank you, Lou!

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

Standard

I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

Ideas for Quick and Easy Meals to Cook on the Road

Standard

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been writing a lot about food lately. From tips for stretching your food dollar to ideas for healthy eating to telling you my methods for cooking on the road, I’ve been sharing with you how I cook and eat as a rubber tramp. As promised, today I’m giving you examples of actual meals without animal products that I’ve prepared and eaten regularly over my almost six years on the road.

Breakfast

Blue Berries Close Up Photography#1 We’ll keep it totally simple to start off. Have some whole grain cereal with soy, nut, hemp or coconut milk. Grape Nuts (or a store brand equivalent) is my favorite because it tends to be cheaper per ounce than most other whole grain cereals. I try to add fruit, berries, and/or nuts to my cereal to jazz it up and boost the nutrition I’m starting my day with. If the healthy cereal is a little dry and bland for you, try adding a little sweetness with a drizzle of agave nectar, coconut nectar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt syrup, or brown rice syrup. (List of vegan honey alternatives courtesy of Your Daily Vegan website.)

#2 If you have a little more time to prepare breakfast, try quick or rolled oats. This breakfast option is quite inexpensive if bought in bulk. I use a really quick method to prepare my oats. I put the oats in a bowl, and boil enough water to cover the oats. (Use more or less water depending on how thick or thin you like your porridge.) When the water is boiling vigorously, I dump it onto the oats in my bowl. I stir it all up and give the oats a few minutes to soak up the water. I like to add nut butters, vegan alternatives to Nutella, dried fruit, nuts, mashed banana, and/or chopped apples to my oatmeal.

#3 If you don’t have to be anywhere early in the morning and can take your time with breakfast, may I suggest a tofu scramble? You can buy tofu scramble seasoning packets, but I don’t think you really need them. I start out sautéeing an onion and green/red/orange/yellow peppers (one color or a combination, depending on what I have on hand), along with minced fresh garlic or garlic flakes. Once the veggies are getting soft, I add in tofu (soft or firm,

Bragg Liquid Aminos All Purpose Seasoning Soy Sauce Alternative, 32 Fl Oz, 2 Pack
fresh or previously frozen, again, depending on what I have on hand), and mash it up, mixing the tofu and veggies. After the tofu cooks a bit, I add nutritional yeast and vegetarian broth powder and stir the powders into the other ingredients. Finally, I add Bragg liquid aminos to taste. I like to eat this tofu dish on whole wheat tortillas, whole grain bread, or healthy corn chips.

Lunch & Dinner

#1 My go-to meal is whole beans and rice. I use brown rice for extra nutrition and canned beans so I can get the meal together quickly. If organic is important, it’s typically easy to find organic beans at larger supermarket. I usually use black beans or chili beans in this dish, but plain pintos work too. I sauté an onion and green, red, yellow, or orange peppers if I have them, and toss in fresh garlic or garlic flakes. If I have zucchini or yellow squash, I chop some up and toss it in when the onion and peppers are beginning to get soft. Around this time, I season everything with cumin and chili powder. Canned tomatoes can be tossed into the pan around the same time the beans go in, or fresh tomato can be used as a garnish. Other good garnishes for this dish are salsa and avocado. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top for extra yum.

Kirkland Signature Organic Gluten-Free Quinoa from Andean Farmers to your Table - 2.04kg., 4.5lb
#2 Quinoa cooks up as quickly as white rice but is more nutritious, so I like quinoa and garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas). I’ve learned recently that the key to tasty quinoa is rinsing well, so don’t skip that step. While the quinoa is cooking (one cup grain to two cups liquid), I sauté my onion and cook up whatever other veggies I’ll be serving. Green cabbage is inexpensive and works well with this dish. After the veggies are cooked, I add my garbanzo beans. Once the beans and veggies are thoroughly heated, I serve them over the quinoa and garnish with sesame oil, nutritional yeast, and Bragg liquid aminos.

#3 Nothing is quicker than refried bean dip over healthy corn chips. I sauté my onion and peppers (if I’m using them). I also like well-cooked zucchini and/or yellow squash in this dish. Once the veggies are cooked, I add canned refried beans and diced or stewed tomatoes from a can. (Fresh tomatoes would work fine too.) The juice from the tomatoes thins down the beans, but use water if necessary to get them to a consistancy you like. Once the beans are heated and as thick or as thin as you like, spoon them over your corn chips and top with un-cheese sauce, salsa, and/or avocados.  (I also like a thick version of this bean dip on whole wheat tortillas.)

#4 Pasta doesn’t have to be topped with a meat sauce to be delicious; I really like my pasta topped with veggies. I might use a healthy sauce from a jar if I find some on sale, but usually I just cook down some canned tomotoes (diced, stewed, or whatever). Of course, first I sauté an onion (see a pattern here?) and bell peppers of whatever color I have, then add in garlic, canned mushrooms, olives, zucchini, yellow squash, or any other veggies I have on hand. (I also think tofu is delicious in this dish. If I were adding tofu to this meal, I would throw it in the pan after the onions.) Once the vegetables are cooked, I add in the tomatos or sauce, then sprinkle everything with plenty of Italian seasoning. I serve the sauce over whole wheat pasta, then sprinkle nutritional yeast liberally on top.

#5 Although not as quick to prepare as opening a can of beans, I do enjoy red lentils over brown rice. Red lentils cook faster and taste better (to me) than green lentils. Lentils.org says to use

3 cups of liquid (water, stock, etc) to 1 cup of dry lentils. Be sure to use a large enough saucepan as the lentils will double or triple in size. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender.

I add salt, curry, and/or tumeric to taste during cooking. If you want to be really decadant, use coconut milk as part of the cooking liquid.

#6 If you have time to let sweet potatoes cook, I recommend sweet potato and garbanzo bean stew. First I chop my onion and get it sautéeing. While the onion is cooking, I cut a couple of sweet potatoes into chunks and put them in a large pot. When the onions are soft, I add them to the pot with the sweet potatoes. Next I add in a can of coconut milk, then use enough water so the sweet potatoes are covered. I add curry and/or tumeric to taste and let everything in the pot boil until the sweet potatoes are soft. Once the sweet potatoes are soft, I add one or two cans of garbanzo beans, depending on how much stew I want to make. Add water until the stew is the desired consistancy. The stew can be served alone or over brown rice or quinoa.

#7 Need one more sweet potato recipe? How about black bean and sweet potato burritos? Cook sweet potatoes by whatever method works best for you. Add canned black beans and a sautéd onion to the potatoes. Season with chili powder and/or cumin. Eat with salsa on whole wheat tortillas.

I hope these ideas will get you thinking about healthy and delicious meals you can cook quickly while on the road or in a sticks-n-bricks.

Blaize Sun has been cooking and eating on the road for almost six year. These methods work for her. They may not work for you. Do what works best for your body, your health, and your life. You know yourself better than Blaize Sun ever will, so cook and eat accordingly.

First image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-forest-blueberries-raspberries-87818/. Other images are Amazon affiliates links. If you click on any of those links, then do your regular Amazon shopping, I will receive a small advertising fee at no cost to you.