Author Archives: Blaize Sun

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

Van Problems (Part 1)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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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

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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.

 

How I Cook on the Road

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Auntie M suggested I tell you how I cook on the road before I tell you what I cook on the road. She thinks it’s impressive, but it’s simply second nature to me. I’ll share my cooking techniques today, in the event they might help someone else.

I’ve used a variety of stoves while living on the road–one burner, two burner, propane, butane. My current setup is a basic Coleman two-burner stove connected to a 15 pound propane tank. For many years I used the one pound propane canisters, but The Man finally convinced me to upgrade to the larger, refillable tank. As I said in a past post about saving money on the road, it costs a lot less to refill the tank than it does to buy a comparable number of small canisters. I also produce a lot less waste by refilling the large tank.

This is the cast iron pan I usually use when cooking just for myself.

When The Man and I are cooking for the two of us, we use his big (12 inch?) cast iron skillet. When I’m cooking just for myself, I use a smaller cast iron skillet. (I have a second, even smaller cast iron skillet I also use sometimes if I need to cook two things seperately, but at the same time. The second burner on my stove is sometimes quite handy.) We use a cast iron pan to cook the main part of our meal, which usually consists of vegetables and whole beans or tofu. It’s super convenient to cook everything but our grains in one pan. It’s quicker cooking that way, and we save cleanup time and water by not having to wash several pots and pans.

To cook grains, I use either a large or a small stainless steel pot. The large one is actually a pressure cooker I was given years ago when a friend of a friend moved. The small one was left behind by camp hosts at the end of the season last year.

To prepare the main part of our meal, I first pour a generous amount of olive oil in the cast iron pan, then light the burner under the pan. While the oil is heating, I chop an onion. (If the onion is huge, I might only use half of it.) When the onion is chopped, I makde sure the oil is distributed across the bottom of the pan, then I throw in the onion, spread it out evenly, and put the lid on the pan. Then I chop the other veggies that need a longish time to cook (bell peppers, carrots, and/or potatoes) and add them to the pan. If I’m using tofu or tempeh or seitan, I’ll add it in early in the cooking process. Vegetables that need the shortest time to cook (like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and yellow squash) are thrown into the pan last. I stir the veggies enough to keep them from burning, and I adjust the flame as necessary.

Once all the veggies are tender, I add any canned ingredients like diced or stewed tomatoes, whole beans, or refried beans. Then I throw in spices appropriate to the dish I’m cooking. Once all ingredients are in the pan, I make sure everything is heated thoroughly. I should probably let the food simmer longer in order to “marry” the flavors, but we’re usually pretty hungry so we just eat.

Cooking grains ws a hassle when I used small propane canisters and butane because grains take so long to cook. I always felt like cooking grains took up too much fuel, so I either bought precooked brown rice (expensive!) or cooked the grains in a way that used less fuel. Now that I spend less money to fill a large propane tank, I don’t worry so much about how much fuel it takes to cook grains, but I do use parboiled brown rice and quinoa a lot because they cook faster.

Dwelling Portably 1980-1989 (DIY)
You may be wondering how I cooked grains in a way that used less fuel. I first learned of cooking with insulation in one of the Dwelling Portably books by Bert and Holly Davis. The concept is simple: food is partially cooked, then the pot of food is insulated to hold heat in so the cooking process can continue without flame. The insulation can be as simple as wrapping the pot in blankets and letting it sit for several hours or as complicated as building and insulating a box for the pot to sit in. The technique is old, with evidence of hay boxes dating to the 1800s.

I made my own insulated box from a square foam cooler left behind by folks who stayed in the campground where I was the camp host. I lined the cooker with flexible, reflective material from a foldable solar cooker kit The Lady of the House had lying around in her laundry room. Because I used materials that were unwanted by others, I didn’t have to spend any money on my insulated box.

When I was ready to cook a pot of grains, I measured the appropriate amount of water and grain into my large stainless steel pot. I brought the mixture of water and grain to a rolling boil, then let it boil vigorously for ten minutes. After ten minutes of boiling, I’d close the pot tightly, which was easy because it is actually a pressure cooker with a latch and seal. (I would not go out and buy a brand new pressure cooker to use in an insulated box, but the one I already had is quite suited to this method.) I then put the pot in the insulated box, covered it with a couple of dish towels, and put the lid of the box on tightly. (I often put something heavy–like a jug of water–on top of the lid to hold it down and seal the box as tightly as possible.) If I boiled regular, not parboiled, brown rice and got it into the insulated box by 10 am, it was fully cooked and ready to eat by 4pm.

Alas, when The Man and his dog and all of their wordly possessions moved into my van, the insulated cooker box was a casualty. We had a lot of stuff, and lots of things had to go. The cooker box was nice, but nonessential. The Man made a sort of bag for the pot by taping together pieces of the flexible, reflective solar oven material, but it never worked as well as the box.

Now that The Man has his own rig and I have room in my van again, I’m on the lookout for materials to make a new insulated box. A foam cooler should be fairly easy to find since people discard them frequently. I probably won’t find a foldable solar oven again, but I could line the cooler with newspaper, cardboard, or even old towels. The goal is to fill in as much space in the cooler as possible so the heat can’t escape. Lots of easily found, cheap or free materials can do the job.

I hope you can use some of these ideas to save time and money while you’re living and traveling in your van. You have to eat, so you might as well eat healthy and delicious food. I’m proof that a rubber tramp can eat yummy meals that are nutrituous and don’t cost a fortune.

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.

I took the photo of the cast iron skillet. The image of the book is an Amazon affiliates link. If you click on the links, then do your regular Amazon shopping, I will get a small advertising fee at no cost to you.

Mural Row

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Nolagirl and I were walking on Main Street in Mesa, AZ, looking for the Big Pink Chair. We approached a building at McDonald, on the south side of Main. I saw murals painted in large, shallow alcoves on the east side of the building.

I’ve never seen these before, I said.

The murals show Arizona natural landscapes and other snapshots of the state’s natural scenery.

I love the vivid sun and the way this painting seems to invite the viewer to stop right into those mountains. I don’t know who painted it.

The mural below was painted by Matlock the Artist, as we can see from the stenciled “signature” on the bottom left of the piece below. Matlocktheartist.com seems to be out of commission, but I traced the moniker to Mark Matlock, artist and owner/curator of (possibly defunt) Fragment Gallery in Tucson. The most current information I could find (2015) is that Matlock left Tucson and moved to Mesa.

This larger-than-life rendering of saguaro blossoms is my favorite of the nature scene murals. The desert is extra beautiful when the saguaros are in bloom.

I think it’s great when the artist has an element from one painting invisibly span the empty space between the two murals and pick up in the adjacent painting. I think this technique helps show the relationship between the murals and make them seem less like isolated pieces. In the pieces above and below, you can see how the artist has used this technique with the the tree branch that runs in front of the saguaro and ends up in the top right corner of the mural featuring the young woman.

Only one of these murals includes the human form, in the person of a young woman standing under the phases of the moon. Who is this woman? Who does she represent? Why is she standing under the changing moon? Those are questions I can’t answer.

I also wonder who painted this mural. I can’t see a signature anywhere. Can you?

I don’t see a signature on this mural either, but it reminds me of a small painting on the other side of Main Street, just down from the Smith-O-Lator cookie store.  Perhaps the same anonymous artist created both paintings.

The spines on these cacti look wicked!

The following mural is called Three Riders and was painted in aerosol by Kerry Niemann of Apache Junction, AZ. Niemann

studied painting, drawing, and sculpture at the University of Kansas in the early 1990’s…

Currently, [she is] most interested in drawing the people and places where [she] live[s]…in Apache Junction, including the mountains, rodeos, restaurants, cars, bull riders, spectators, actors, horses. [She] also paint[s] murals of similar subject matter.

I like the juxtaposition here of a very traditional Western scene topped by an abstract representation of the sky. I wonder if the three figures on horses are perhaps riding off into hell.

Chuck Wan signed this mural of larger-than-life birds, but I can’t find any information about him, other than his collaboration with Carlos Mendoza on a mural for sale through Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Anyone know anything about Chuck Wan?

On the other side of the building, where a wide alley bisects the block, we found more murals painted in large shallow alcoves. While the first murals we saw depict scenes of the state’s natural beauty, the second set shows aspects of mid-20th century American Southwest civilization such as advertisements on Route 66 and other highways and byways of a pre-interstate era.

 

I don’t see a signature on this depiction of the Buckhorn Baths sign.

These are all places in Arizona, Nolagirl said in awe.

She was right, according to information I found about these murals in a December 2015 article in the East Valley Tribune. More specifically, the murals depict places in Mesa. The article, “Downtown Murals Evoke Mesa Memories” says,

Murals that depict neon signs on businesses that previously operated in the city [Mesa] have been painted on the west wall of Surf and Ski building at 137 W. Main Street.

According to the East Valley Tribune, Anthony Galto re-created three vintage signs in this mural.

According to the aforementioned East Valley Tribune article, the next mural was painted by Jesse Perry. On his website, Perry says,

Using an abnormally bright color pallet to deliver my New School Pop Art Style, my work is both bold and versatile, often filled with humor and fun loving characters of the Southwest, commonly laced with hidden messages that speak to the idea of unity and community.

Jesse Perry’s website says he painted this mural with spray paint. I love the Arizona sunset sky.

Also featured in the East Valley Tribune article was this mural by Mark Matlock, aka Matlock the Artist. According to the article, only black and white photos of the sign he chose to paint were available ,

 so he had to choose colors for the mural. His desire was to make the mural look like an old post card and look like neon. He used a wash to rub over the final work…

My favorite of the neon sign murals is this one by David “Dski One” Oswoski of Mesa. I like the slightly blurry edges which gives the piece a dreamlike quality. I can imagine being a little kid in the backseat of the family Buick, eyes half closed after a long day of fun and seeing this sign beckoning me to spend the night in one of their clean, comfortable beds.

I was glad to spend some time with these murals; they really help beautify the two walls. It’s nice to have these downtown reminders of Arizona’s colorful commercial past and its fragile natural beauty.

Ideas for Healthy Eating

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The idea for this post came from a Facebook group I’m in. The group is particularly for lady van dwellers, and one of the other women in the group wrote about wanting to eat healthier foods and fewer animal products. Eating healthier is a quest I’m continually on, especially as I grow older. Unfortunately, I’ve led a life of disordered eating. Unfortunately, I love sugars and carbs. Unfortunately, it’s often cheaper to buy over-processed junk food than it is to buy healthy whole foods. But still, I keep trying.

While I’ve never completely eliminated animal products from my diet, over the years I’ve had many friends and comrades who had exclusively vegan diets. I’ve been to my share of vegan potlucks and have eaten many delicious dishes prepared with no animal products. By eating with and cooking for vegans, I’ve learned a few tricks. Today I’ll be writing in general how I cook and eat, but next week’s Wednesday post will include information on ten vegan meals that are easy to prepare even if you live on the road.

I don’t think meals without animal products have to be boring. I love garlic and onions and spices. Readers will notice next week that most of my food prep instructions will begin with sauté an onion. Green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are delicious too. I usually use whatever I can get cheapest or free (if I’m in a town where I have a hookup for free food).

black pepper, bowl, clove As for spices, I love basil, marjoram, turmeric, curry, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and rosemary. If you already cook, think about what spices you would use in a dish that includes meat. Making your pasta sauce vegan? You may want to use oregano and whatever other spices are in those little jars marked “Italian seasoning.” Making tacos or burritos with beans instead of ground beef or shredded pork? You may want to add cumin and/or chili powder.  Making chicken-less curry? Substitute tofu or some sort of faux chicken patties for the chicken and use the same spices the recipe calls far.

I also like to use condiments to add flavor to meatless meals. For a spicy kick, I like sriracha sauce, especially the brand with the rooster on the label. For a salty flavor without so much sodium, I like Bragg liquid aminos. Made from non-GMO verified soybeans and purified water, the thin sauce (according to the label) contains “16 essential and non-essential amino acids in naturally occurring amounts.” For extra deliciousness and satisfaction, I love to dribble sesame oil over my food or mash in half an avocado. For a yummy yet indescribable flavor (maybe nutty?) and extra B vitamins, I like to sprinkle nutritional yeast over my meal or make a great “uncheese” sauce. (I’ll post the recipe for the uncheese sauce soon.) For extra nutrition, crunch, and satisfying fat, I like to add nuts (whole, sliced, or pieces of almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pecans) to whatever I’m eating.

When I sauté my onion, garlic, peppers, etc. I use extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil. My understanding is that olive oil is healthier than other oils and that extra virgin, cold pressed is healthier than other varieties of olive oil. I haven’t done a lot of research on oils, so I’d love someone who knows all about them to share all that knowledge in the comments. Bowl Being Poured With Yellow Liquid

All of my tips so far easily apply if one is cooking in the kitchen of a stick-and-bricks home or an RV, over a campfire or on a camp stove. Wherever you cook, you can leave out the meat, use healthy oil, and add flavor with spices and condiments.

Cooking grains can be a little trickier when cooking over a camp stove, especially for folks using one pound propane tanks. Grains can take a long time to cook and the propane in those one pound tanks goes fast. While brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, brown rice takes a lot longer to cook. I use the boil-in-bag kind that only takes ten minutes to cook after the water is boiling, or I use parboiled brown rice. For more convenience (which comes at a higher price), look for totally precooked brown rice. Trader Joe’s has it, and Minute Rice and (I think) Uncle Bens’ offer their own varieties. Minute Rice advertises that their precooked rice can be heated in the microwave, and while that’s true, it can also be added to a pan of beans and/or vegetables and warmed up and ready to eat in a few minutes.

Quinoa (pronounced /ˈknwɑː/ ) cooks as fast as white rice (20 minutes or so), but is much more nutritious. I like to add vegetable bouillon cubes or canned vegetable stock to the cooking water for extra flavor. I eat it the same way I’d eat rice. I add beans and/or tofu and whatever vegetables I’m having with my meal. A friend of mine adds fresh cilantro and lime juice to her quinoa. In any case, the secret to quinoa is to rinse, rinse, rinse it. In the past I often skipped the rinsing to conserve water and complained when my quinoa tasted like dirt. After getting great results after rinsing my quinoa, now I’m a believer.

Round Grilled FoodBeans are a great source of vegan protein. When I lived in a house, I cooked big batches of beans in my slow cooker and froze them in individual portions for later eating. I can’t really do that while van dwelling, so I depend on canned beans. I mostly eat vegetarian or fat-free refried beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas). Check the label to make sure your beans don’t have lard, chicken fat or stock, bacon, or other animal products. I try to find options that include only beans, water, and maybe salt. You can rinse your beans for less sodium and reduced gassiness.

Vegan beginners, do not be afraid of tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Tofu and tempeh are made of soy, and seitan is made from wheat. All add protein and texture to a dish. Tofu particularly, seiten to a large extent, and tempeh less so tend to take on the flavors of the foods with which they are cooked. Tofu is particularly good in a sauce. Added to pasta sauce, tofu soaks up all the good flavors of the tomatoes and spices. In a curry sauce, tofu takes on the flavors in a way chicken just can’t. Seiten tends to have the meatiest mouthfeel of the three, although tempeh and extra firm tofu (and any tofu that’s been frozen) can seem meaty too. (Of course, folks going gluten and/or soy free should eat accordingly.)

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t like new ingredients immediately. I don’t think I was a huge fan of tofu the first time I tried it, but now it’s (for real!) one of my favorite foods. I also had to learn to love nutritional yeast and Bragg liquid aminos. If you don’t like a new food the first time you eat it, give it another try (or two), perhaps prepared in a different way.

Also, try not to feel discouraged if you don’t immediately embrace a vegan or vegetarian diet 100%. At first, Carrots Tomatoes Vegetables and Other Fruitsmaybe strive to prepare every other meal without meat or other animal products. Think about meals you might already like that would be easy to prepare without meat. Could you leave the meat out of pasta sauce and add in extra veggies? (Mushrooms often have a satisfying meatiness to them.) Could you enjoy bean burritos if the beans were prepared without lard or chunks of pork? Could you substitute vegetable broth in a recipe that calls for chicken broth? Do what you can when you can and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve “perfection” (whatever that is).

Next Wednesday day I will share ten ideas for easy healthy vegan meals that I eat regularly when I am living out of my van on the road.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-white-seasoning-spices-45844/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/bowl-being-poured-with-yellow-liquid-33783/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-restaurant-106972/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/food-salad-healthy-summer-33307/.

Penny Pinchers in Quartzsite, AZ

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The Man and I were in Quartzsite, AZ. We were near the Big Tent, heading to meet our California boss. There’s a gift shop on the Big Tent side of the street, as far from Central Blvd (Highway 95) as possible. The structure housing the gift shop is permanent, but I don’t know if the store is open year round, or only in the height of the winter tourist season. You’ll know you’re there when you see the big rock painted tastefully to say, “Welcome to Tyson Wells.” The building itself has words painted on it as well. The words on the building proclaim, “Cards” “Gifts” “Games” “Ice” “Soda.”

As we walked past the store, I saw a sign alerting me that I could press pennies inside. What? This was my fourth winter stay in Quartzsite, and I was only now discovering the penny squishing machine? Apparently so.

I decided to smash a penny later, when I had more time.

For some reason, I only encounter penny presses in Nevada, Arizona, and the California desert. I’ve smashed pennies in Jerome (AZ), Las Vegas (NV), and Baker (CA). Why have I never seen a penny press in New Mexico?

This is the press…er, pincher…I used to squash a penny for my friend.

All of my penny pressing is on behalf of an old friend of mine. Years ago, she told me she collected smashed pennies, so now I want to squash a penny for her whenever I see one of the machines. My endoeavors may be in vain at this point, but I’ve continued to perservere.

I went back into the gift shop at Tyson Wells one morning a few days later. The place was deserted, save for the very chipper woman working. She was stocking, but she told me to let her know if I needed any help. I said I just wanted to make use of her penny press, which I had already seen standing near the check out counter. She said that was fine and went about her work.

I walked up to the machine and fished two quarters and a penny from my coin purse. I fed them into the machine, then decided on what design to engrave onto the penny. I decided on Hi Jolly’s tomb since it was the most uniquely Quartzsite of the three designs.Then it was time to turn turn turn the crank unitl the penny fell with a clank into the dispenser cup.

I only saw this penny press as I was walking towards to door to leave.

My work was doine. I called out thanks to the woman working and headed to the door.

I stopped in my tracks after about two steps. There was a second penny press right next to the door. I’d never seen two penny presses in one place before (and I’d never seen them called penny pinchers either.) I didn’t press a penny in the second press, but I did take a photo of it.

Now I know Quartzsite, AZ is also on the list of places where pennies can bre pressed.

I took the photos in this post.