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How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

Those of you who visit the site regularly may have noticed that I hadn’t updated this Home page for a while. That’s because I’ve been out of town, trying to escape the heat.

Temperatures in Phoenix have been in the 110s with a high just yesterday of 116°F. Wickenburg is normally a bit cooler, but not that much. Since I haven’t been home, I can’t tell you what the temperatures in Wickenburg have been, but I’m willing to bet it’s brutally hot.

My significant other, Mike, and I own 40 acres of ranch land on Howard Mesa, about 15 miles north of Williams, AZ and 40 miles south of the Grand Canyon. The property is on top of the mesa, with 360° views of Bill Willams Mountain, the San Francisco Peaks (which are still snow-capped; see photo), and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. At an elevation of 6,700 feet, it’s about 20° cooler here than in Phoenix or Wickenburg.

The View from our place at Howard Mesa

I’m living in our 35-foot horse trailer with living quarters—which is like living in a very small trailer with a big garage on back. I have Jack the Dog, Alex the Bird (who you might know from the Old Nursery Coffee Company, where he worked this past spring), and my two horses, Jake and Cherokee, with me. I also have my helicopter parked here, less than 100 feet from my trailer. I’ve been flying it a few times a week—mostly to Williams to do my laundry. Yesterday I went to Page with a friend, and the other day I flew to Winslow for breakfast at La Posada, with a flight over Meteor Crater on the way back.

Our property is off-the-grid. If you’re not familiar with that terminology, it means that there’s no connection to electricity, water, sewer, telephone, cable, or anything else. We don’t have a well because—well, we weren’t prepared to have a well digger dig down 5,000 or more feet to hit the water table. Instead, like everyone else, we have our water tanked in. We’ve got 2,100 gallons of water storage, which is enough to last me a few months. The other day, I managed to buy 900 gallons for only $25 delivered—a long story with a happy ending. Our trailer has a solar panel on the roof that keeps the big battery charged, so I can listen to the stereo; use lights; charge my laptop, iPod, cell phone, and aviation radio; and even run an AC fan (via inverter). The fridge and water heater work with gas and I have plenty on hand. Although I don’t have a television (no big loss, as far as I’m concerned), I can watch DVDs on my laptop—as a matter of fact, I watched one last night.

This year we’re putting a cabin on the property. We started with a shell, which we bought at Squashblossom Nursery in Wickenburg, and we’re slowly adding the comforts of home. I framed out a partition wall for the bathroom and Mike and our friend Hans (who works for Masters Plumbing in Wickenburg) did the piping. Mike added the electric and gas lines. I’ve been working on the insulation—a project that seems to never end, despite the fact that the building is only 12×24 feet in size. I just bought my last 7 sheets of foam insulation at Home Depot in Flagstaff today.

Our Cabin at Howard Mesa

I work on the shed in the morning, when it’s still very cool—in the 70s. Then I have breakfast and either head out to Williams or Flagstaff or spend the day reading, writing bLog entries, or writing. When I first got here, I was finishing up the latest revision to my Quicken book, Quicken 2006: The Official Guide for Quicken Press. I received files via e-mail—which required a trip to Williams to access the Internet at Java Cycle—edited them, and e-mailed them back. Later, I got page proofs in my mailbox here—well, not exactly here; it’s down where the pavement ends, 5 miles away—and I’d put all my comments in an e-mail message to my editor and send it when I sent my e-mail. Now with that book done, I’m taking the rest of the summer off. I do have an article to write for Informit.com about how to use a GPS with a Macintosh, but they’d don’t seem in a hurry to get it so I’m not in a hurry to write it.

I did recently use my GPS to map all the roads in our area of Howard Mesa. I had to drive all 33 miles of them—including the ones that haven’t been graded in about five years—with the tracklog feature of my GPS turned on. Then I downloaded those logs into my laptop and overlaid the roads on topographic maps. I e-mailed PDF files of the resulting images to Mike and he mailed printouts back to me. The map came out great and the property owners’ association here will likely make good use of it.

So I guess you can say I’m goofing off. And rather enjoying it.

Today, when I was at Java Cycle, I downloaded all the files for wickenburg-az.com so I could update the site. Jim keeps sending me his journals and I really thought it was high time to add them to the site. So that’s what I did this afternoon. Next time I’m in Williams, I’ll upload these revised pages.

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