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Table Of Contents

  1. 2017/01 - Back to San Francisco
  2. 2017/07/04 - Stuck in the Desert For Four(ty) Days and Nights
  3. 2017/10/22 - Charlie the Filmmaker!
  4. 2017/11/05 - To Catch A Bus Thief
  5. 2017/11/08 - Dave The Stuntman



1:   2017/01 - Back to San Francisco

Eventually we end up back in San Francisco after spending some time
searching for a home.  After some time we find a nice and tiny garden
apartment in the Mission.  Amusingly enough it's about the same price
per month as my at-the-time outrageously priced 1700 sq ft Fulton Fun 
House apartment that I rented back in 2000.  Prices just keep going up!

2:   2017/07/04 - Stuck in the Desert For Four(ty) Days and Nights

We had an adventure.  We decided to finally get out to Fourth of Juplaya,
a non-organized gathering in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, the home of
Burning Man - one of our favorite places in the world.  I usually
couldn't go because my annual trip to Sweden is in July, but this
year we were leaving a week later, so we drove the bus up to the desert.

Follow-along photo album for this adventure can be found at DavePics.com

When we got there, we discovered that the playa (the clay desert floor)
was still wet from the late rains, and some areas of the playa were
really dark from the water and were unsafe to drive in.  People were
getting even their 4x4s stuck trying to brave the dark mud and were
needing to get pulled out.  No problem - we stuck to the light gray
dry crust and parked near where Black Rock City is created each year.
The light gray dry crust is hard pack and flat as can be.

We suprisingly run into one of our Burning Man friends Jason and invent
a game called Bus Horseshoes, of which you can see video on my photo
album and on youtube

Let me tell you about Black Rock Desert, the beautiful flat landscape
that we were in.  It's barren.  It's one of the flattest places in America.
And it's huge.  Much bigger than you'd ever realize if you just went
to Burning Man, which only uses the first few miles of the clay desert.
The public part of the desert is about 35 miles deep, and then there's
the protected area that extends another 35 miles deep.

You can drive on the first 35 miles of the desert, but not during Burning
Man.  And there's a few hot springs that are inaccessible during the
event.  Though I'd been to two of them many times after the event, I
knew there were some even further out.

So after a day or so, we decided to start driving to see the rest of
this beautiful land we called home for two weeks each year.

We drove almost 30 miles into the desert (about 28 miles from Gerlach).
We're heading towards the mountainside in the distance, seeing how 
truly distances can be deceiving in the desert.  A mountain that 
looks like it's merely a few hundred feet away won't budge as you 
drive another mile.

We're finally getting to the massive cove at end of the drivable part 
of the desert.  Driving along at about 30 mph, when suddenly something
is wrong.  I feel the ground getting soft under the bus, but the desert
floor here is completely light gray.

That's when we discover a new type of wet desert that happens out at
this end of the playa.  A muddy clay that is covered with a light gray
dry crust.

We're in trouble.

I quickly turn the wheel and let off the gas in the hopes of turning 
us back towards solid dry land.  We make it halfway around before the
bus suddenly comes to a halt, dropping the front wheels into wet mud
almost to the axle.

I put it in reverse and manage to back up about 10 feet, but the bus
isn't raising.  I get out and look and my amazing bus has turned into
an earth mover, dragging the front wheels back in a trench without
lifting them more than a couple inches.  But a couple inches is progress,
and the ground is dryer behind us, so I get in the bus and slowly
pull back.  I make it a couple more feet, but then the back wheels of
the bus drop.  The left side of the bus has sunk so the chassis is 
touching the floor in a few places.

I'm in the mud.  Slippery stuff, guaranteed to give no traction.

And we're 30 miles from civilization.

Our phones don't work here, but I know we had a signal not too far back.

We have lots of food and water, and we mostly have power, which is good,
because it's hot in the day.  I don't mention to my wife that we're limited
in power, because the bus generator is on the left side, and the exhaust
is down in the mud.  So we can't run it.  But we still have 1kW of solar on 
the roof, and they are sure getting plenty of sun.

We get out digging tools and start trying to make a ramp in the clay.
But it's just slippery clay.  So that makes a slippery, soft ramp.

No go.

Black Rock Desert is named for it's black rock mountains, which sometimes
litter little black rocks into the playa surface.  If you've been to
Burning Man, you may have seen them, as they are pretty rare
amongst the dusty surface.  So we put on some desert wear and search
the area for black rocks until we fill up a number of buckets.  We push
them into the clay, hoping to make traction on the ramp.

No go.

Time to try to reach people.  I discover that if I walk back a couple
hundred yards and hold my phone high in the air I can send text messages,
and sometimes even make phone calls.  We manage to text someone
camping back near the entrance with everyone else, and they manage to
find someone from the Burning Man Organization (BMOrg) that is also
out on the playa and is trying to get them in touch with us.

During this time we've also taken masking tape and written "HELP" on
the side of the bus in enormous letters, hoping someone will head
out this way.

And a Black Rock Ranger (from the Bureau of Land Management, who runs
the desert) sees us.  They come over and we have a nice chat.  They
call their buddy, and soon we have two pickups behind us on the firmer
part of the desert, and we're trying to find a tow point under the bus.

We can't get to the axle, because the bus chassis is almost on the 
desert floor, so we cautiously connect to the engine cradle and they 
start to pull while I get in the bus and slowly reverse.

The bus starts to move!  We gain an inch or so.

But the bar we've connected to is starting to bend.  We are poking
around trying to find another tow spot.  That's when someone from the 
BMOrg shows up having received our message.  Most everyone at Burning 
Man goes by a nickname, no need to use her real nickname (foreshadowing
here, she doesn't come off well in this story), so we'll just call
her "Raccoon".

She tell us (and the rangers) not to worry!  The BMOrg has their 
heavy land equipment out on the desert because they are doing 
training with them, and they will come out and just lift us out of 
the mud, easy peasy!

Hallelujah!  We are saved!  Or so we think.

The rangers who had helped us make some shaky progress leave, happy 
to hear that a bulldozer or forklift will be arriving tomorrow.  And 
Raccoon heads away, to meet us tomorrow.

Or so we think.

Nobody arrives.

We manage to reach Raccoon eventually by text.  She says they'll
be coming that evening.

Again, nobody arrives.

This continues for a while.  She keeps telling us they won't be coming
just yet.  Every time we complain about being stuck, she says "Radical
Self Reliance!"

We finally figure out they won't be coming.


"Radical Self Reliance" is one of the beautiful tenents of Burning
Man society.  She's telling us we need to take care of ourselves
(which I agree) but she's conveniently forgetting that she told us
she'd send someone out, and telling us was the reason that the
BLM Rangers left, who were actually helping us and who we can't reach
anymore.

This is where I learned a valuable lesson about BMOrg.  And if you're
not interested in the Burning Man society, you can skip to the next
paragraph.  Any society such as Burning Man that is built around
the beautiful concept of Radical Self Reliance will naturally also 
evolve the unfortunate negative of what I will call Over-Promising.
I look back at my history with the BMOrg and realize that every time 
I've had a problem with BMOrg, it's because they promised something, 
and when they didn't deliver, their response was "Radical Self 
Reliance!".  See - Over-Promising is guaranteed to happen, because 
people love you when you promise great things.  And if you deliver, 
that's a bonus as well.  If you don't deliver, then people might be 
upset, but not if you have the easy out of "Radical Self Reliance!"  
So unconsciously this Over-Promising naturally evolves in a society
built on Radical Self Reliance.  Bummer.  And that's what has 
unfortunately happened at Burning Man.  Maybe someday I'll figure out 
how such a  society can avoid the problem of Over-Promising - but 
that will have to wait while I figure out how to lift 16 tons of 
metal out of the mud.

We text a friend in the real world and have them find us a big rig
towing company.  The closest are in Reno, almost 150 miles away.

We can hear our bank account draining.

We call a few of them.  Many of them won't come out to the desert.

We find one that does, but they tell us they can't come out right
now, because of the fire.

Fire?

"Yes, I-80 is on fire"

The interstate is on fire?

Yes - we learn that there are currently huge fires happening between 
us and Reno, and the interstate is actually closed because parts of 
it are on fire.

Can you come when the fire is done?

"Yes.  It will cost $3000."

*gulp*

When can you come out?

"We can't come out until the playa is dry"

How long could that be?

"Weeks"

Uh oh.

Sweetie?  I think we just moved to Nevada.

We might be here for the long haul.  And our trip to Sweden is in a few more
days, it's starting to look like we might miss that.  And I'm starting to
ponder what would happen to the bus if I left it out here?  Are we losing
our home?

Night comes.  We know that nobody is going to help us at night, and when
the rangers were here, one of them mentioned that the Black Rock Hot 
Springs are at the foot of the mountain range off in the distance.

Might as well have an adventure during our misadventure!

We mount a light on the roof of the bus pointing towards the mountain 
range and load our bags up with as much water as we can carry, more 
than we need, since this is the desert.  We head out towards the 
mountain range.  It's about four miles across this part of the desert.

On foot, we discover that the desert range on the other side of the
playa is fascinating.  It's not just a continuous flat grey.
The land changes every half-mile or so.  From wild clay dunes to
pocked moon-like-surfaces, to scrubby plant areas, we feel like
we're travelling across different planets.  We walk for hours,
and then..

Wait..  There's sound?

We stop in our tracks and realize that the desert, devoid of noise,
has snuck up on us, and there are the sounds of life.  Crickets and
bugs chirping quietly around us.  The small scrubby brush is turning
into tall grass, and we realize we are at the foot of the hot springs,
leaking water into a quarter-mile area that has become a lush (at
least for the desert) paradise of life.

We find a walkway out to the hot-springs.  I love hot springs, but
it's too damn hot, and it's too damn freaky.  The water is slimy and
murky, and there are bats flying overhead that are fascinated by us.

I am reminded of the time I went on an "adventure" path through the
jungle in Thailand with my friend Nabi and a bat found us that really,
really liked us and kept dive-bombing our heads.

So it doesn't turn into a "slip into a hot springs and relax" kind
of adventure, but it's fascinating and I finally get to see the
hidden hot springs at the end of the desert.  We hang our feet in
the water as much as we can take the heat and creepiness and sit
for a bit.

We eventually start heading back.  The last couple miles get a little
unnerving, because we are walking across the open desert, and we 
don't see the light to lead us home.  We are just heading back 
towards what we think is the correct peak we are using as a 
navigation tool in the mountain range that is miles behind our bus.

And then, a mile or so out we see the light in the distance.  We make 
it back to the bus in a spritely 8 hour adventure across the desert.  

Worth it.

The next day, after trying to contact people multiple times, we finally
end up reaching someone at Brunos, the last gas station on the way to 
the playa, in beautiful, tiny Gerlach, out in the middle of nowhere.

They send someone out.

This amazing duo shows up with an incredibly beatup pickup truck.

The bumper is bent, and I soon learn why.

They get a huge tow rope and a chain, and we hook up to one of the
tag wheels.  His intent is to pull a 16 ton bus by dragging one
of it's wheels.  With a pickup.  I'm scratching my head trying to
figure out how, but I'm willing to try anything.

He explains that he can't just pull us, because he'll sink in the
clay as well.

He gets in the truck, I get in the bus, and he gives me the signal
to start slowly trying to backup, and he rockets forward in the truck,
until he hits the end of the tow rope, and the truck yanks itself to
a stop, twisting slightly to the side.  From 30 to 0 in a matter of feet,
I'm worried he's flown through the windshield.

He's okay.

And the bus has moved back an inch.

He backs up the truck and we do it again.  He guns it forward at full
acceleration until the tow rope slams him into a stop, and the bus moves
an inch.

And again.

His hitch is attached to his bumper, which is getting bent more and more.

I imagine when it gets too bent, he just backs up against a tree to flatten
it back out.

Amazingly, after a number of tow rope "crashes", the bus is on land.

We are saved.

That's some serious small-town engineering, saving the day.

He asks for a hundred bucks for the tow.  That's amazing.

I give him something like $200 or $300, whatever I have, and we
make it back to the start of the desert and eventually to the
freeway, and actually manage to catch our flight in time.

Adventure!


3:   2017/10/22 - Charlie the Filmmaker!

Back in Barcelona in 2015, Charlie was just thinking about
starting to get involved in dance film, but was bemoaning that it was
"too late" to get started.

Now, less than two years later, one of her dance films, "Dive," was
accepted at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival and was shown
tonight!  Great things already and great things to come!

4:   2017/11/05 - To Catch A Bus Thief

Someone stole the Big Red Bus.

This is the THIRD time we have been burglarized in three different 
cities over the last couple years.

I am tired of it and it hurts.

This time, though, the ending is not as painful as the time they 
cleared out our house and the time that they stole my Triumph.

For those of you unaware, the Big Red Bus was my home for many years, 
and was a project that I've spent over a decade building. We have an 
apartment now, but I still love the bus and we use it we can - it 
also still has a bunch of our "home" things in it.

Here's the story in brief:

Over Halloween we drove down to LA in the bus for the West Hollywood 
Halloween party, which is amazing. I brought my enormous Grim Reaper 
costume which we'll have photos up soon. We parked the bus for a few 
days at one of it's regular location before taking it back to storage 
- one of the neighborhoods I used to live in.

On Sunday we go to move it, and it's gone. We call 911 and report it 
stolen, and they say they'll have a cop out eventually to take the 
report.

We've done this before.


I know the neighborhood really well. I guess that they aren't about 
to drive the bus to Iowa or some such, but they've moved it to take 
what they can get. We start driving to all the empty streets I know 
nearby.

And sure enough, we head over to Amador and see the shape of a huge 
bus. I tell Charlie to drive past it and park while I call the 
police. I notice that a light is on inside.

They tell us they'll have a cop out, eventually.

I casually walk along the street past the bus to see if I can notice 
if anyone is moving inside.

Amazingly, someone is sitting in the driver's seat, though I can 
barely see them in the darkness.

I call 911 again and beg them to come out now. The operator argues 
with me and actually calls me a liar at one point. For real. I could 
rant about that in another post.

While I'm on the phone about 50 feet behind the bus, the lights come 
on. He's turned the bus on. I beg, again, that the 911 operator get 
some police there now. I jog straight up behind it so he can't see me 
in the mirrors, and as I get closer he starts the bus engine. I open 
the back doors to the engine compartment and reach in between the 
running fan belt and push the air solenoid that cuts off fuel 
delivery to the engine, and the engine sputters to a stop as he is 
trying to get away.

I search in the darkness for the service panel to find the 
maintenance switches that allow you to control the bus from the 
engine compartment. He starts the bus again, and I reach in and kill 
the engine. This happens one more time before I finally manage to 
find the kill switch, and now the engine won't start.

I quickly back away from the bus out of sight of the mirrors in case 
he comes back to see why the bus won't start or in case he decides to 
run for it. I want the bus back, but I'm not going to confront this 
guy directly if I don't have to.

I get further back and get back on the phone with the 911 operator. 
She's not helpful.

Amazingly, the thief doesn't realize what's happened, and he stays in 
the bus. For a while. Which is good, because it takes the police a 
few minutes still to show up, but they finally do, with guns drawn 
and arrest the piece of shit.

I take a video on my phone but it's from pretty far away, so the
footage is pretty shaky and dark

We finally get to go inside the bus and it's a disaster. Fortunately 
we found it while they were sorting through the "loot" and before 
they'd pulled much out, but there was damage inside and outside the 
bus - they'd evidently hit something while driving, and they ripped a 
bunch of the reflectors off the side, either because they like shiny 
things or somehow thought this would make the bus "incognito". They 
were not the smartest of thieves.

I say "they" because there were more of them - a witness saw at least 
one leave the other sitting in the bus before as he stole one of my 
scooters - and when we got inside they had left a bunch of their 
belongings inside our bus.

A bunch of things that we are going to enjoy setting fire to.

*sigh*

At some point I'll figure out how to keep the animals away, but I 
haven't figured it out yet.

In the end, we have the bus back, and all of the blood, sweat and 
tears that went into it are mostly recovered. We spent all day 
yesterday repairing, and will have plenty more work to do.

I am blessed to have Charlie with me through all of this. She handled 
the whole situation like a capital-H Human, and she helped me deal 
with everything, physically and emotionally afterwards. If the 
animals manage to take everything else from me, then as long as I 
have Charlie I will be okay.

5:   2017/11/08 - Dave The Stuntman

This is not my week.  A couple of days after the attempted bus theft,
I am riding one of my little one-wheeled scooters across Van Ness.  
They don't go fast, max of 8mph (jogging speed), but fast enough to 
put me in the tracks of oncoming car from my right, which I realize 
at the last second.  I try to veer very hard to the left to get out 
of his path, but he sees me and thinks I'm going to keep going, so he 
veers to try to go the left of me.

Amusingly our actions cancel out, and as I turn hard left, I see a 
flash of his car on the left of me and hear a loud bang as if two 
cars had just collided.

They hadn't, that was the sound of the car hitting me.

As I sail over in a flip, I'm just trying to figure out how I can avoid
going under the wheels, though I don't have any reference as I'm flipping
backwards and moving too fast.  I hit the ground, and try to roll over
and get my head up enough to see if any cars are coming since this is
a busy road.  Amazingly, none are.

People wonderfully come running to make sure I'm okay.  I convince the first
one there to help me up because I know my body and spine well enough to
be pretty sure that the important bits are in one piece.  As I'm sitting
up, I see that my motorized unicycle is still rolling!  It's done a full
circle on it's own and is heading back to the intersection where it started,
a good 50 feet away.  (It isn't until much later that I realize this means
I flew a good 40 feet or so through the air during that back flip), I am
guessing the car was going between 30 and 40mph when it hit me, minus my
8 mph or so that I was moving in the same direction.

Somehow the scooter wasn't hit, and it's not scratched.

I am.

As I'm getting up, people are circling around, asking if I'm okay.  I'm
hurt, but I'm pretty sure I'm "okay" in the major sense.  I know I have
a cut on my head, because there's blood, but every time I reach up, a
loose clump of hair comes out in my hands, which freaks me out.  I use
my phone camera to check and it looks like my head is still there, so
that's nice.  It isn't until I get home that I learn that I had used 
the road to shave off a 1" circle of hair (and some skin) from the 
top of my head.  Hopefully that will regrow, I'm not ready to need a 
combover just yet.

I walk back home and Charlie is my hero yet again.  We go to the hospital
just to check things out, and some knee X-rays and a cat scan of my head
and neck confirm what I was pretty sure of, that I have no serious trauma.

So I have survived, and got to actually find out what it's like to have
my body hit by a moving car.  Now that I've tried it, I'm quite confident
that I don't need to do that one again.


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