Blog

Help along the way.

I can’t say enough good things about Airtable —-> https://airtable.com/invite/r/nr0piuGq

This tool is halfway between a spreadsheet and a database and is the most user friendly software i think I have ever used. It allows non-technical users to create banks of data that is useful for them. It also allows techy type people to add interfaces, scripting and extensions that integrate with anything.

I built a database for this trip that includes everything I need – campgrounds, routes, camper inventory, appointments, gas expenses, the whole 9 yards and then does a nice job of summarizing things with not a lot of effort on the part of the user. Probably my #1 online favorite tool.

Another tool I’ve been using is ChatGPT by Open AI. It’s become invaluable by helping me arrange travel, come up with reasonable routes given my timeframe, making camping reservations and keeping me out of the cold weather (well, mostly). Check out a tidbit of a ongoing conversation I’m having with the tool. It’s helped me immensely.

https://chat.openai.com/share/2b41d03f-0a13-49ee-b602-32899775233e

Not only has it helped me with routing and reservations, it has generated all of the state images you see on the right side. These are original images that I created using ChatGPT and the Dall-e plugin. I keep the requests in the same chat window and everytime I request a state, a new image is created using the same style as the others.

Day 8: Catch-Up

Is it only day 8? It honestly seems like a month at this point. After yesterday dragged on for an eternity, my sense of time has been completely shattered. I’ll get you all caught up (since my last post disappeared mysteriously, I must have forgotten to click save).

Day 1: I left at 2am after getting the water link/sink fixed in the bathroom. I wasn’t too worried about leaving at night, I thought it might make the traffic situation a bit better. It did. I made it to nearly the border of Iowa/Missouri where I stopped at a rest stop off of I 35 and slept for the night.

Day 2: I headed towards my first destination, Bolivar, MO just north of Springfield. I stopped in Sweet Springs because they had a spa and soaked in the hot tub for a few hours – my muscles were so tensed up from driving – I must say that it’s nerve-wracking pulling a trailer for the first time. The spa was super relaxing and afterwards felt ready to tackle the road.

Somehow I lost track of where I was going when the phone died. I kept going in the general direction but when the phone finally came back up, it had me zig zagging on very narrow country roads which pretty much nullified the good the spa did. This also made me late and I didn’t arrive at the campsite until 8pm. So not only will this be the first time I’ve setup the camper, it will have to get done in the dark.

I drove around the campground for a good 1/2 hour looking for my spot. Could not find it for the life of me and finally called Teresa, the campground manager for help. She directed me to my spot, which was in between two already landed campers in a row of very tightly packed sites.

I set up the camper as best I could and went to bed.

Day 3: I worked until 5 and then had to reset up the camper. It was crooked, to close to one neighbor and backwards (connections for water/electricity/sewer were on the wrong side. With Chris’ help over the phone, I got it all setup except for the sewer which didn’t look right. More on that later.

Went to Springfield that night to get away for a moment and have a drink. Found a cool little bar that was having Karoke. Bartender was super friendly and made a good Long Island Ice Tea.

Day 4: Worked and continued to clean up the camper which was a total wreck. I had hit some bumps on those country roads and everything in the camper had been thrown around and the little glass I had was broken. My makeshift shelving in the bathroom had fallen over and there were clothes covering every inch of the bathroom. This cleanup effort would last until the end of the week, just in time for me to have to pack up and leave again.

Went to a local hardware store in search of a sewer hose part that I seemed to be missing. Finally found it, but by the time I got back to the campsite, it was too dark to deal with it.

Day 5: Finally got the sewer hooked up, but not without a bit of drama. I had purchased this cool attachment that has a place to put a hose so that you can easily rinse out your black water tank (the poop and the pee) without having to bring a hose in and stick it down the toilet. It hooks on the the sewer outlet and the hose hooks on the other end. Pretty slick. Thought I was super smart for hooking it up right away instead of waiting until the end when the job would most surely be really shitty. So I hooked up the new hose with the coorect end to the rinser attachment and opened the dam gates. Here comes a flood of really not very attractive brown color water gushing out (the attachment tube is clear) and then it abruptly stops. Like nothing is flowing past the rinser attachment.

I search for a valve or something and nothing. I did note a little piece of plastic on either side of the attachment and came to the conclusion that it had a seal on it like you would find on peanut butter or salad dresssing. I mean, really? Are they afraid my poop might becoming tainted? Shessh. Now I have a problem. I shut the dam gate so there was no more flow but I still had this tube of shit full and ready to well, you get the picture. So again, Im stuck. I’m not unattching the tube without rubber gloves or a bucket. And I have neither. So its off again to the hardware store (the next day) to get the needed supplies.

Day 6: Ok, this time the sewer gets connected and it runs. i held the bucket underneath the tube (with the rubber gloves) and unattached it from the hose. Next I pulled off the plastic tamper-proof seal (god it made me feel good to know my shit tube was safe) and………

……. it all went in the bucket. No more drama to this story, thank goodness. And i finally got the sewer hooked up the day before I leave.

I spend the rest of the night buckling up the camper.

Day 7: Time to pack up and go. The neighbor sees me struggling to hook up the truck and comes over to help. Nice guy. He and his wife bought a camper for $5000 and moved in to it and then realized it was all rotted out. So he’s got tools and saws and wood all over his spot and is trying to make all of the necessary repairs. Meanwhile, they have two teenagers who were just removed from their dad’s home (they are the wife’s) and are now living with them in the camper. 4 adults, one small camper. I don’t feel so crowded all of a sudden.

So it’s raining, of course. It’s been raining for two days now. The only thing worse than packing up a camper in the rain is pulling a camper in the rain. It’s miserable. I feel like I’m hydroplaning all over the road and everytime a semi passes me (and everybody is passing me because now I’m that dude driving 50 in a 70mph zone.

I stop several times to catch my breath and throw up a little and it’s starting to get dark and I’m in a town called Poplar Bluff. I’m cold, wet, tired and grumpy and decide to splurge on a hotel with a hot tub. It was nice but the hot tub was lukewarm, half-full and there were like 4 jets. Whatevs.

Day 8: Most definitely the worst day so far. This day sucked so bad…….

As I left the hotel parking lot I hit the curb with the camper wheel and I’m sure threw stuff around. The rain continued and was pretty heavy at times. I traveled through Missouri and into Illinois and then into Kentucky. I didn’t get very far when I decided to stop at a gas station for a little break in Paducah, Kentucky I went in, and when I came back out I noticed the camper was leaning heavily to the left. The tire was blown! Aargh. I start making phone calls.

On my first call to AAA, the agent informed me that I didn’t have an RV membership. I pulled out my RV Membership form and called back. The second agent told me my membership had been cancelled. As I was on the phone with him, another call came in and it was a third agent informing me that she had it all worked out and was looking for a tow truck that could haul a single axle camper.

While I was waiting, I called around and found a tire at wal-mart about 6 miles away but I needed to get the wheel off and had no jack. So I drove to wal-mart, bought a jack and some jack stands and went back to the camper. Got the wheel off and rushed off to Wal-mart to get the tire put on and when I got there, they didn’t have a tire. Nor did they have a wheel with a tire that would fit my camper. Aargh.

I left and stopped at Tractor Supply and they had a wheel with a tire on it (I needed a spare anyway). Rushed back to the camper and with the help of a very nice man named Mike was able to get the new tire on the camper.

Kentucky gets 5 stars for friendliness. I was very impressed with the people there.

Back on the road and headed towards Nashville around 8pm. I got close to the campground but was worried about getting in too late and dealing with setup in the dark again so I stopped at a rest area and slept for the night.

Day 9: Got into the campground at 7 am and was setup by 7:55. Made it to work with 5 minutes to spare.

Non-eventful day. Went to dinner after work at a nice place after work since I hadn’t eaten a square meal in a couple of days. When I got back to the campground, I had a voicemail from the manager that we were going to be freezing over the next three nights and to disconnect my water supply at night so the faucet wouldn’t burst. I’m supposed to far enough south to avoid the freeze at this time! Aargh.

Day 0

I have a f****^%#%^*ing water leak. I cut my finger and was looking for a bandaid and noticed it was a bit damn under the sink. A little more research revealed a drip from the cold water feed. With a little help from Chris, we are repaired but am not a fan of last minute drama. And it was a mess to clean up. I finally got to bed at 4 am. Was having some doubts but Chris reminded me of the snow coming and that totally energized me to get the f out of dodge

I’m Getting Close to Liftoff

I took the week off of work to prepare for this strange adventure and to help my brother clean up some things on the farm. I spent the week cleaning, organizing, going to the dump, going to Goodwill and endlessly rearranging the camper. I know I’ve packed too many things, but when I think about what is now gone, I’m not being too hard on myself – I got rid of a lot. Like (30) 30 gallon garbage bags of clothes. Countless electronics, knic knacs, stuff that belonged to my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents.

Even though I got rid of a lot, there were certain things I felt I needed to purchase in order to make this a successful trip. Here’s a list of things that I believe will make this transition easier.

monitor mount

Monitor Mounts for the monitors I’ll be using for work. I found these to be very reasonably priced and very sturdy. They are an easy mount and the monitors fit flat against the mounted wall yet pull way out when I want to use them. They tilt, turn, twist and rotate just about any way that you could think to adjust a monitor and they stay put when you want them. Great buy.

Also in the technology mounting category, I bought a Microphone Mount and a Base so that could be easily adjusted and out of the way. It works quite well. And of course, we can’t forget the camera, so I bought a mount for that too.

camera mount
Dehumidifier

They say that travel trailers aren’t really meant for full time living and one should worry about excess condensation which can cause mold. Something I’d never considered but a micro dehumidifier should solve that problem. Seems to be working great in my driveway testing.

Something to help me get rid of flies in rainbow colors.

Ice maker

Because I love my ice maker so much, I had to have one in the camper. I’ve been testing it out for the past few weeks and it make nice thick cubes quickly. Not a lot of noise and easy to use. I get mesmerized by it – watching the water turn into ice is for some strange reason highly interesting to me. I know. I’m weird.

I ended up completely remodeling the dinette – taking the table and cutting it in half to make an L-shaped desk. I, of course needed a keyboard tray so this is the one that I got. Sturdy yet affordable. Very happy so far.

keyboard tray

I know, I know, pictures. I’ll take pictures very soon. I just want the rig to be in as finished of a state as possible before presenting to the world.

Cruisin’ the States: Camper Chronicles

Welcome to my adventure! This blog will document my travel over the next little bit of time around the US as I explore places to find a permanent home. I hope to hit a lot of cool places, meet some new friends and connect with some current friends. Many of you have asked that I share regular updates about my travels and so I thought I would do it here. But first, let’s explore the backstory of how I got here in the first place.

About 5 years ago, I moved back to the family farm in Iowa to take care of my aging parents and the farm that has been in my family for over 130 years. After my parents died, I remained on the farm to help keep the family’s legacy alive. I had previously lived in San Francisco for most of my adult life, and although I love the peace and serenity of living on the farm, the lack of social opportunities, food options and activities started to take a toll on me. That coupled with all of the work that is required on a farm pretty much turned me into a hermit, rarely leaving the place for anything other than occasional shopping trips to nearby towns.

My brother came to me one day in the not very distant past and was complaining about a situation at his job that he didn’t feel was fair. It just so happened that the equivalent of his job opened up in the town where I live and he applied for it. He got it, but was unsure where he was going to live. He had a home in Iowa Falls but that was too far to drive on a daily basis. The stars had aligned and I told him he should move back to the farm and I could find somewhere else to live. He liked the idea and three weeks later was here living in our AirBNB rental. I started going through all of my things but couldn’t figure out a place I wanted to move. I knew that I wanted to be near a bigger city, but didn’t have an idea about where to go. As I brought up my head from contemplative thought, I eyed the camper and an idea was born.

Next came the process of going through and whittling down my belongings, getting rid of things and packing some stuff away in the attic. That process has taken two months but I’m nearing the end. My brother moved into the big house two days ago and I’ve been living in my camper and working here for about two weeks.

So now you’re caught up. I’m currently going through all of the crap I’ve packed in the camper and whittling it down further – I had converted the shower into a closet but have since decided not to bring so many clothes. I’m going to have to learn to do laundry more often.

I’m also considering re-configuring my desk once again. The camper had a dinnette with two bench seats and a table that I tore out and re-configured. It’s nice, but I’m thinking I don’t need so much table and am considering cutting the table in half and making an L shaped corner desk so I could fit another chair in here. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Anyway, hope you enjoy reading about my journey, leave a comment here and there so I know who’s out there!

Excluding Sites when Searching with Google

Ever do a Google search and the results are inundated with pages from a site that you really don’t want to see? Google provides some not-so-widely used tools to help you hone down your results to something that is useful.

Today I was looking for a chimney sweep. No matter how I searched, the results were littered with pages from angi.com and homeadivsor.com, the same site for which I have had really bad experiences with. Although not the main topic of this post, this company purports to find you professionals in your area and has a wizard to get the info about the project and then finds professionals to help. Every time I have used this, it returns the message that there are lots of professionals in my area and asks for my contact info. Once entered, the message quickly changes to inform me that there are really no-one in my area to help me. But now, they have my contact info and subsequently spam me for weeks for other things. Needless to say, I don’t want to see results from this company when I search.

Google search provides a simple exclusion tool to leave these results out. Here’s my search syntax:

chimney sweep near me -angi.com -homeadvisor.com

The addition of a minus sign (-) immediately followed by a domain will exclude any result from this domain from your final results. Handy, no? You can also use the minus sign to remove specific words or phrases from your results. For example, if you didn’t want to see results that were located in Des Moines, you could add -“Des Moines” to the end of the search. The quotes around the exclusion phrase are necessary only when you want the exact phrase to be eliminated.

The quotes bring up an important point. By default, Google uses an AND between multiple words. In my search google is looking for pages that have both the word chimney AND the word sweep in them, but not necessarily the words chimney sweep together. To make it more accurate, the following syntax could be used to get at more specific results

“chimney sweep” near me -angi.com -homeadvisor.com -“Des Moines”

The above syntax should find chimney sweeps near me, eliminating results from the sites angi.com and homeadvisor.com and without Des Moines in the text.

Verizon has got to go……

Verizon has to be the most incompetent company on the planet. And deceptive. I needed a new phone and the had an offer for a free phone. Turns out free is not so free. My bill went from $45 on Visible to $190 on Verizon and I have less bars. I traded in my old iPhone and they offered me $1000. As it turns out, they get to pay me this $1000 over the course of 3 years in the form of a credit of $27 on my bill each month that help to pay for part of my “Free” phone.

In addition, the put me on a more expensive plan than I requested, refused to change it and suddenly my $100 bill is was now $168. The second month it was $190. Part of the promotion was a $200 gift card that was presented to me as a visa gift card but when I got it, it was just for merchandise in the Verizon store. I went shopping and hardly anything was available to purchase. I finally found something and went to check out and there was nowhere to enter my gift card. Shocker.

I got on their chat for help and after 3 agents and an hour, they told me to click Place the order which I did, and it charged it to my PayPal account instead of offering a place to enter the gift card. The agent then went on to request proof that I placed the order so I sent her screenshots of the cart, the order from Verizon and the email from payal. She had the nerve to tell me that it was the wrong order because it was placed the day before. FUCK! I’d been on the chat with them over an hour and the order was placed on the 23rd and now it’s the 24th. WTF? of course the date changes at midnight. She then cut off the chat without helping me. What a piece of shit company. I’ve filed a complaint with the BBB and will file another with the FTC. So pissed.

Random Thoughts

It’s -1° outside right now. That’s not a windchill. That’s the temperature. The low today is -11. There is supposed to be a storm starting today lasting for three days and the wind chills will reach up to -40°F. Why am I still here? I’m not sure, but I keep saying this is my last winter here and I think I mean it this time. I don’t want to rent this house out full time, but I can’t just leave it. I’m thinking that it will be a winter airBNB rental. There aren’t any hotels around here so I know it would rent. As soon as the bathroom upstairs is done, I’m listing it and I’m out of here.

I had a friend tell me recently that she hated cinnamon. Really? How do you hate cinnamon? I felt like asking her if she also hated puppies, flowers and presents but I knew she wasn’t being contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I’m all to familiar with that behavior from my recent roommate from hell experience, so I knew she didn’t fit that bill. She is probably the best person I know. She is definitely the best mother I’ve ever seen, and does not have a negative bone in her body. She is kind, respectful, loving, thoughtful and generous, and her behavior never sway from these qualities. She must really hate cinnamon, which I can’t understand. Cinnamon is one of the most amazing flavors I can think of. I love to make cinnamon ice cream, put cinnamon and sugar on my toast, load up an apple pie with it or use it in a scent burner when I’ve had a particularly explosive experience in the loo. To each their own, they say.

I have a little beef I need to work out here. Usually I’m not for airing the dirty laundry, but I’ve tried to resolve this beef directly and I have gotten no response. Here’s what happened: The day after my last roommate moved out, he was supposed to come over to get one last load of stuff in the morning. I waited, an nothing. The afternoon came and went with nothing. The early evening came and went – still nothing. No text, no call, no show. I got tired of waiting and went to Brushy Creek to do some metal detecting with my friend Jason. When I arrived back home, he was there accompanied by a Webster County Sheriff. He had showed up after I left ( I think he had this planned out and was waiting for me to leave) and when I wasn’t there, called the Sheriff. He convinced the Sheriff that I had locked him out, and the Sheriff let him break into my house to get the last of his stuff. He broke in by trying each window on the main floor until he found one that wasn’t locked, damaging screens along the way. When I got home, I was super angry as one would be and the Sheriff wouldn’t listen to me as I explained how he and my roommate had broken the law by committing a class B felony. After the dust settled, I wrote a letter addressed to the Webster County Board of Supervisors outlining my complaint and I have yet to hear anything back. It has been 5 months now with no word. Not sure where to go next, the governor’s office?

The reason I’m so upset is that there is no way he could have proven he lived there, because on that day he did not. He never signed a fucking lease in the first place and I have written statement from the person who he was staying with that he did indeed move in there the day before. Does the Webster County Sheriff just allow anyone to break into a house that says that they live there or was this an isolated incident? I’m still pissed. Ok, enough said I just contacted a lawyer.

CO2 Pipelines

CO2 Pipelines seem to be all over the news in Iowa. The idea is to capture the CO2 that is being produced by Ethanol plants in Iowa, compressing it into a liquid, and piping it to another place to sequester it underground. This would prevent the CO2 from entering the atmosphere and further depleting the ozone layer. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Sounds pretty good until you dig in and get the details about it.

Fact is, there aren’t a whole lot of details about it. There haven’t been a lot of studies about it and the dangers aren’t really well understood. There is one incident that we can look at – a rupture in a small Mississippi town in 2020 that resulted in the entire town of Sataria to be evacuated. The rupture spewed CO2 into the air, sickening many people and requiring hospitalization for many of them. Two years later, some have not yet been able to return to work and their normal lives. We don’t yet know the long term effects of such a rupture.

There are several companies working towards putting in these pipelines in Iowa. These companies are private companies that will make a profit from the CO2 capture by charging the Ethanol companies to take the CO2 and by selling to CO2 to other companies that use it for Enhanced Oil Recovery, which is fracking.

Navigator Ventures is one such company, and their pipeline would cover 1300 miles across South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and finally Illinois. It would gather 15 million tons of CO2 per year from around 20 Ethanol and fertilizer plants and dump it in deep wells in the earth in Illinois.

The project is possible due to huge tax credits and will use just as much CO2 creating fossil fuel to complete and operate it as it claims to save the environment from the gathering process. This industry is under-regulated and dangerous, and as we saw in Mississippi, can cause loss of life in the event of a rupture.

Why do I care so much about this? Well, I am concerned with the environment and what we are doing to our ozone, but as it stands, this pipeline will pass by my house only 1/4 of a mile away. The town in Mississippi was 1/2 mile away. If the pipeline ruptures, gone is the farm my family has owned and operated for nearly a century and a half.

If this pipeline goes through, I get to spend every day worrying about a rupture for the rest of my life. Do you think it helps my land value? If you were someone looking to buy farmland, would you choose farmland with a pipeline under it or one that doesn’t have a pipeline under it? Of course it will lower the value of my land.

Other concerns revolve around the damage done to the topsoil during construction. They claim that they will separate the topsoil and place it back the way it was but I have yet to see one farmer confirm that this has happened with other projects in the past. All of the reports point to damaged land and reduced yields for years to come.

Navigator was supposed to notify landowners when they were come to survey the land. DId this happen? Not in my case. I even sent a letter to them back in February asking them to coordinate with me as we had a huge pile of trees out there to burn. No contact requesting permission. They entered my land and did a survey without my permission or notification which is against the law.

Until yesterday, I had not returned any messages to them regarding this. I got a voicemail from one of their representatives yesterday so I called them back. He immediately offered me $6000 more per acre than what was originally offered. I asked for it in writing and he sent me a revised Easement and Crop Yield/Damages report with the updated figures. I responded with the following:

<Agent name withheld>,

The first issue that needs to be addressed is the illegal trespass on my land to do the survey.   I sent a letter to Navigator (see attached) requesting notification of the survey and did not receive it.    That point is mute, however, because the law states that a proper 10 day notice be given to me which wasn’t.     I will accept payment of a fine in the amount of $1000 to settle this matter.   If that isn’t agreeable then I will file charges with the Webster County Sheriff and submit a complaint to the Utilities Board and we can let the courts decide.   I’m not willing to discuss anything further until this is resolved.      Any further access to my land is not allowed without proper notification via certified letter or there will be further fines assessed.

If we get past the illegal trespass, I’m asking for compensation for loss of revenue for my business as I won’t be able to operate during construction. I’m also asking for compensation for mental anguish for having to worry about a fucking rupture for the rest of my life. Oh and compensation for the loss of value to my land and my home. That is if I decide to sign.

What happens if I decide not to sign?

Navigator will exercise the right it will be given by the Iowa Utilities Board of eminent domain, and they will take the land anyway. Eminent Domain, you ask? How is this possible? Isn’t eminent domain reserved for government use only and only for the purposes that are for the public good like roads, bridges, utilities, etc? And isn’t Navigator a private company constructing a pipeline for their own profit? How is this even possible?

It’s possible because the CEO of Navigator has Terry Branstad on his team. Terry appointed two of the three members of the Iowa Utilities Board and the third was appointed by Kim Reynolds, our current governor-ess. It’s the Utilities Board that gets to decide if eminent domain can be used. Isn’t this just a bunch of horseshit?

Keep your eyes on this category for further events as this drama unfolds.

This guy is getting around.

My alter ego has been taking some trips lately.

Tonight he’s staying at the Oceano Palace Beach Resort in Mazatlan. I got his review form from Orbitz asking how his check in was.

He flew on Sun Country Airlines

Suncountry was nice enough to send me his flight check-in reminder, complete with flight number SY595, his reservation code (I18j8Y) and buttons to check-in, check bags, view my trips and check current flight status.

In the screenshot below you’ll the email address in question – jaylarson@gmail.com. My email is jay.larson@gmail.com. Google says dots don’t matter, but we both signed up for gmail in the beginning – he with jaylarson and me with jay.larson. I’m saying that the dot does matter in this case.

Sometimes I like to see how far I can get. In this case, pretty far. Suncountry has now given me his middle name and his birthday. Peter. July 21, 1962