Table Of Contents
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. 6: 2018/08/10 - We Buy A Home! After living like a nomad for a decade, it's evidently time to grow up. Charlie and I bought a home! We searched for about a year. The SF market is relentless. Every weekend was looking at houses that had so many compromises, and trying to figure out which compromises we could deal with. We needed something that had some in-law space, because we can't afford a mortgage on our own, and eventually want to have space for an actual in-law to live in, when we finally have a little one joining us. The compromises were always the same - trying to find enough space with a separate entrance for the in-law, access to the backyard from upstairs (because the in-law is pretty much always downstairs), a reasonable amount of fixer-upper (Dave likes to build things...). It was a long and failing process. We had put our maximum bid on a few places that we thought we could get, and they always fell through, and it would happen quick. Generally a house goes on the market and is sold in about two weeks in SF, for more than the asking price, often by a ridiculous amount. Sometimes you look at a house and the moment you walk in you realize that it's intentionally underpriced and can go for another $500k. Out of our budget, for sure. Then an amazing set of events happened. We were leaving for Herräng for two weeks, and I realized that any houses that came on the market that week would probably be bid on and sold before we got back. I found three houses that were coming up and had our agent check if we could see them before their open houses. The second house wasn't a bad match for us. It had a number of compromises that we could probably deal with, and was probably going to go for a price that we'd barely be able to cover. We planned to make an offer. We showed up to see the third house. Waiting for the agent outside I see a car parked in front and start talking to the man sitting inside. He's a nice guy. Turns out to be the owner. It had an in-law downstairs that was actually legally built. The in-law was permitted. We hadn't seen that before. We walked in and whoa. The in-law was nicer than pretty much all the upstairs of the places we'd seen. We'd just walked into another house that we couldn't afford. We go upstairs and see the first floor of the main part of the house. It's solidly SF victorian style. But it's big. It's got three bedrooms, which is more than most places we've looked at, and a large kitchen with a beautiful view. Charlie has given up at this point - she doesn't even look in most of the bedrooms because she knows it's out of our budget, and she needs to go to the bathroom. But there are stairs going up. I walk up and more whoa. The entire third floor is one huge bedroom, with wood floors, and a gorgeous bathroom and a massive walk-in closet that is comparable in size to the bedroom in our current apartment. We say thanks and get in the car. As we drive off, I say, "Well, we can forget that house." It's already nicer than every single house we've seen, not just including the houses we've bid our max on and didn't get, but also the houses we didn't bother to bid on, because the sold for way more. And this was nicer than that. We drive a little more, and I can't get it out of my head. I say to Charlie, "What if we did put in an offer? Why not?" Our realtor had very rightly talked out of bidding on properties before. Properties that had listed in our budget but had gone way out of it when they sold. But our realtor wasn't there when we saw the third property, so he couldn't tell us that it was a waste of time. He called the listing agent and asked about putting in an offer. The listing agent said that the owner had met us and liked us, so he was willing to take a pre-emptive offer before the house actually had a viewing. Whoa again. Furthermore we find out that the listing agent had switched realty companies, and the sellers were loyal and had followed her, but it meant that the selling was taking longer than they wanted because they were moving. And the listing agent had switched to the same company that our realtor had just switched to, and they were more than happy to work together. So we submitted our offer at the max. It was the most we could get approved for, though we knew that with the beautiful apartment downstairs we would only have to pay a portion of the mortgage. So we didn't have any room to negotiate, and we were offering far less than the house was worth. And they took it. It feels like winning the lottery, really. We had lost so many houses that we would have had to make so many compromises to make work, and then we find this - a house that has just about everything we could want, and it's ours. Welcome home!
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