Monday, March 23, 2015

10 Reasons why I don't like my Casita Travel Trailer


Wait, no, well, umm. Sorry, I can't think of anything. This little fiberglass bubble has been perfect from the get-go. That doesn't mean we haven't made a few little modifications to it and we may make a couple of more. What it does mean is that the little minimalist dream has done exactly what we had wanted it to do, act as a cheap, comfortable, base of operations.

The Casita has everything you absolutely need in a “small house” and not a whole lot more, but it gets you out in “It”. It has the creature comforts of a good bed, a bathroom with shower, and an efficient kitchen to prepare food and a place to eat said food. The “dance” floor is a bit small and took just a little while before Kamala and I learned the rules for the dance, but it comes rather quickly and now we even do the dance with two dogs (it took a little learning on their part too). But the very best part is that it takes us to very neat, beautiful, awesome places where we, not so much live in it, but we live “Out of It”. Hiking, cycling, sight-seeing, visiting friends in far away places are all things we are able to do with Tara, our little Casita's name (Ok, ok, we give names to those we love even inanimate objects). Plus, it has done this from the moment we drove it out of the factory garage at Rice Texas.   

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How did we get to our Tara, our Casita travel trailer?

Our travel journey has been long. Our first trip together was back in 1975 to Telluride, Colorado, when it was a still a little sleepy mining town that hippies were rejuvenating. While it was just a trip back then, it has since been referred to as our 'honeymoon.' We took it in a VW converted bug known as a Baja. Charley made it so we could actually sleep in it. We took pride that the little trip only cost $100.

Then we have the 'antique' years. Years we traveled to Mexico to buy rustic, handmade, primitive furniture from the homes of the inhabitants, brought them back, stripped the paint from the tables, benches, trunks, wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, etc., then traveled Stateside to sell these jewels to antique stores. We have never been the travelers who travel from point A to point B to get there as fast as possible. We have been meander-ers. It's like we personally knew Ralph Waldo Emerson because when we travel, “...[it's] the journey, not the destination” that counts. So all those trips were spent exploring the countryside on roads less taken.

In the late 90s, we discovered a tandem bicycle. This two-seated, two-wheeled vehicle beckoned us to travel longer and longer distances. Our first self-supported tour was to Albuquerque, NM and back home in El Paso. It's strange to say this but the pain, how good
it made us feel. The future only held more anticipatory plans of more trips. Charley was
already a teacher, I changed careers and became a teacher so we could travel during the summers—all two months, all summer long. The back roads were once again our friends as we meandered to our proposed destination. To see maps of those routes taken go to . Traveling on a bicycle, especially a tandem bicycle, weight is of the utmost importance.

As discussed in an earlier post, our trips have evolved and we are traveling from point A to point B in a vehicle pulling a travel trailer. We first toyed with the idea when we bought a 1972 Reco pop-up trailer for $300.
When we brought it home, we discovered that the canvas was rotten, so we bought clear vinyl and screen for the windows, Sunbrella material and I sewed a new canvas for it. Meanwhile, Charley uncovered mold in the ceiling from a long-time leak in the roof. Having just had rotator-cuff surgery, the repair became his physical therapy. We pulled our little gem to Washington DC and back with our four-cyclinder Chevy S10. People would stop and ask us where we got it because the size was so petite. We were hooked. The trip was great and got us dreaming of a harder shell for our new-found way of meandering.

We were captured by the idea of the Casita. We called and spoke with a sales rep. We thought and thought. It would put a dent in our retirement funds. While thinking about this, I explored the web and we ended up buying a empty, square shell for $3,500.
It was only 15 feet long. We set out on our next project of building the interior (bed, bench, folding table, and closet). We roamed in that little trailer for three years. It was extremely light, but had some problems. It would sometimes fishtail. It wasn't because we drove fast either. We tamed it's erratic swerves with a weight-distributing hitch and a sway bar, but still we drove with caution and on guard.

During these years we visited the Casita Travel Trailer factory three times. We tried to buy used. Really! We tried! But the trailers were always sold by the time the owner answered our call. We noticed that the trailers really hold their value over the years. For the most part, these little fiberglass eggs only depreciate about $1,000 or less a year and seem to bottom out at $6,000 no matter how old the trailers get. So, if the prices
were close to what the trailers were new, why not buy new? Plus, since it depreciated so slowly, it would be an investment. Not a difficult equation to solve. Did I say we visited the factory three times? Yes, that's right, three times. Like the adage goes, three times is a charm. On November 2012, we picked up our brand new 2013 17-foot Spirit Deluxe and haven't looked back.

While the Casita is a lot heavier and two feet longer than our last square trailer, the aerodynamics really pays off. We get about 4 miles per gallon more pulling it. Having a bathroom is sweet! It pulls like a straight and like a dream. We have to remind ourselves we're pulling. So there you have it: Our journey of modes of travel. 

By the way, want to help poor retirees stay on the road? It's free to you and it helps us too!   We've recently added a couple of Amazon
search links on our blog. If you shop Amazon, do so going through our site and they'll pay us a little something for your purchase. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ontological Research

On the side of our little fiberglass bubble we light heartedly placed this little tag to guide is in our travels. It has some noticeable side effects. First, like all little meditations, it brings our attention back to why we are roaming around in this reality. Second, it gets a lot of questions at gas stations and parking lots about "Just what the hell does that mean?" Apparently, 'Ontology' is not in a lot of people's vocabulary and I can find no fault in that.  But it makes for a good start for an interaction with a stranger.  It is a subset of Epistemology, which is a bit more known, but still a little stuffy and you would probably not find either of them used in conversation except by college professors at a cocktail party trying to impress each other.

Wikipedia gives this definition and some questions that come up in it's study.

"Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations."

Some fundamental questions ******I suggest you just scan these as they have an effect of making one sleepy if you try too hard to understand.****
  • "What can be said to exist?"
  • "What is a thing?"
  • "Into what categories, if any, can we sort existing things?"
  • "What are the meanings of being?"
  • "What are the various modes of being of entities?"
  • what it is (its 'whatness', quidditas or essence)
  • how it is (its 'howness' or qualitativeness)
  • how much it is (quantitativeness)
  • where it is, its relatedness to other beings
  • What is existence, i.e. what does it mean for a being to be?
  • Is existence a property?
  • Is existence a genus or general class that is simply divided up by specific differences?
  • Which entities, if any, are fundamental?
  • Are all entities objects?
  • How do the properties of an object relate to the object itself?
  • Do physical properties actually exist?
  • What features are the essential, as opposed to merely accidental attributes of a given object?
  • How many levels of existence or ontological levels are there? And what constitutes a "level"?
  • What is a physical object?
  • Can one give an account of what it means to say that a physical object exists?
  • Can one give an account of what it means to say that a non-physical entity exists?
  • What constitutes the identity of an object?
  • When does an object go out of existence, as opposed to merely changing?
  • Do beings exist other than in the modes of objectivity and subjectivity, i.e. is the subject/object split of modern philosophy inevitable?

As far back as as Parmenides and Plato guys have been struggling with trying to wrap their minds around Existence and  while their rational brains have spilled out some interesting theories they tend to melt down to, as Grandma would put it. "pura wa-wa". 
Long ago I gave up "understanding " the Nature of Existence with words. Words are like the old Zen Buddhist would say, simply fingers pointing at the moon and not the moon itself".  So the only remaining way to study Existence is to simply immerse yourself in it and "experience".  Yeah I know, all of us are wiggling around in Existence but are we all aware of it?  So to me, Ontological Research is a mantra to "look around", Don't miss any of this wondrous world. I don't believe the human mind will ever rationally understand existence, but the human body is capable of experiencing it. 

Enjoy the Ride. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coffee for light travel and packable

When packing for a bicycle trip, weight and size matters. When packing for a tandem, two people on one bicycle, weight and size becomes even more important. One of the main questions people would ask us is, "How much gear weight do you pack?" We weighed everything one year and our gear turned out to be 100 pounds. That's really not bad considering that single cyclists (people traveling on a regular bicycle (not tandem)) carry 50 - 75 pounds of gear. 

Now we travel in, what some people would call, a tiny travel trailer. We call it a luxurious mansion on wheels, our 17-foot Casita Spirit Deluxe travel trailer (all things are relative). While we can pack a lot more, space still plays an important part. I've seen all sorts of inside trailer modifications just to accommodate a conventional coffee brewer. One of the items we've taken from those bicycle traveling days is a  collapsible silicone coffee drip .  

It stores flat, it expands for a #4 coffee filters and makes from 1 to 12 cups of delicious brew. Expand the cone, put in the filter, place over a cup (large cup if brewing a lot) boil water and pour over the coffee grounds an voila! Java! Clean-up is a cinch. Remove and throw out the filter with used grounds, rinse and dry cone, collapse, store it in the tiniest of locations, then energetically walk out to greet the world.

We use the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip. But there is a variety out there these days. It's great for small spaces, car trips, or use in your kitchen at home.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wagon Spokes

Can you believe that our last bicycle tour was the fall of 2011? Wow! Over 12 years of bicycle touring. The pain, the joy, the conquest of miles over landscapes forever etched into my soul. During our current motorized trips (more on that in just a minute) we constantly drive along or crisscross places we previously cycled. Did I say etched? We remember the moment clearly, as if it were yesterday. We remember the weather, the shade (or lack of), the road surface, the thrill of the downhill, the work of the uphill, and oh, don't forget that nasty headwind or the joy of the tailwind, plus the sighting of something that would have been lost traveling at a greater speed. Yes, it is etched.

We saw a lot. But then there were times we lost out on moments. We missed a play in a town, a carnival, a festival, or a boat ride, to name just a few. Life is full of deadlines and just because you're on a bicycle doesn't stop the calendar entries. Bicycle touring consists of day rides strung together with no other means of transportation. So, many times the trip took on this pattern: Ride, set up camp, cook, shower, sleep, wake up, cook, break camp, ride, set up camp, cook, shower, sleep, wake up, cook, break camp, ride . . . (repeat). That pattern and the deadline at the end caused us to propel forward.

The last tour ended abruptly. One of our elderly dogs, Halleluyah, had a stroke. We had to rent the car to come home and do what is always so difficult in the end. Our other old dog, Jane, left us four months later. We now have a couple of other dogs, but we didn't want them to be the yard dogs we've owned in the past. We wanted to incorporate them into our activities as much as possible. That is why, in an earlier snippet I posted the dog bicycle trailer that Charley and repurposed from a child's trailer. Odin and Cassie have changed the way we travel. All that touring also changed the way we now travel.

We are still traveling a lot! We carry our faithful two-wheeled companion in our vehicle. As we carry the tandem and we now pull a Casita travel trailer. So we are staying true to the word tandem: a vehicle, such as a truck, bicycle, or trailer, in which a pair or pairs of axles are arranged in tandem. So we're still in tandem. We're still in this partnership. Vehicle (with bike) pulling a trailer arranged in tandem. These days we have evolved our trips into what I've come to call wagon spokes. Imagine, if you will, the hub. That is our base. Each spoke represents the trips out to delve into the surrounding area by foot and two wheels; then every close of the day we return back to our hub, our base, our nice little cozy sanctuary on wheels. We grab that opportunity to take in that local theater, the bean festival, or outhouse races or whatever else might arouse our attention. We just return to base every night, .

We haven't been writing about our travels, I think that it's partly due to guilt. The website was about our tandem bicycle travels. Now the website will evolve to cover our tandem travels, hikes with the dogs, floats on a lake, rolling down the road pulling our little Casita travel trailer. It'll be about our experiences found while actually spending time at a new locale, living there, no matter short the visit, and drinking in the local flavor.

So I introduce to you, Tara!

This is Odin, also known as Thunder-walker.


Cassie, the whippet-mix who likes to run with the wind and ride in a basket.

The adventure continues!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Traveling Art

I just recently completed a project that would allow our larger dog to ride with us. I wrote it on my personal blog Click here to read.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Kamala: The spinning of the pedals is the heartbeat of the road. We're drawn to it and feel guilty if we don't do it. The slowly-passing landscapes seep into our souls. Years later when traveling a route by a gas-fueled motor, we remember the details, like where we sat, where we changed a flat, where we saw sheep, and oh yes, that hill (up or down). The trips take us back to a simple life where we can no longer hide from the elements but work with it as we experience each tier of our hierarchy of needs. Shelter behind a wall that shields us from the wind while we eat lunch becomes sanctuary. Our muscles are our engine that powers us forward. The earth passes beneath our wheels. Mountains become hills then transition to flat plains. Life issues are debriefed through therapeutic conversation.  All bicycle touring trips are odysseys. Just like that of Odysseus, our epic adventures include pleasure, villains, traps, challenges, and struggles.

A little over half of this year's 700-mile two-wheeled journey was over roads we've pedaled before. The last part was new. The old hilly foes of Alamosa and Nogal Canyons shrunk to reality and posed no new challenge. We let the wind's influence be our guide this trip. We were coming home sooner but the wind had different ideas. When we could only muster 3 mph we both said, “Forget this!” We turned around and decided to see where it led us. Magically, we were blown to our trail's end in Amarillo to Charley's cousin's home where we visited Oklahoma farm memories, family histories, and his 99-year old aunt. We transitioned to a mini-van and brought us and our gear home to plan our next two-wheeled adventure.
Hope you enjoy the video.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bicycle touring and making predictions

Charley: Life is unpredictable. Most of us know that at our core, but then there is something in most of us that strives to make sense out of all this chaos buzzing around us and thus make the world a little more under our control and therefore more predictable.
You would think that we'd learn the futility of placing too much importance on predictions, but no. It's not just that our predictions flop and fizzle, It's that sometimes we get it right and, at least subconsciously, pat ourselves on the back for being so damn smart. And, like Pavlov's dogs salivating at the bell but getting no food, we just smile and go on making decisions based on our own or expert predictions.
Now as a bicycle tourist I make no claim to being better at this prediction fantasy, nor immune from making them, only in recognizing the folly in them. As we pedal through unknown territory we lay out the maps, we listen to the weather, we ask questions of locals and consult the Google Gods. All, to our sometimes sorrow, we've learned are fallible. Still there is the day, week, distance ahead, so we pull what information we can scrape up and consult what experts are available and predict the day's ride. Now I know that sounds quite reasonable when one is considering things such as; Will it rain? Headwinds or tailwinds? What's the you terrain like? A place to camp? Is there a bike shop? However, Tarot cards, flipping a coin, or reading sheep entrails would probably work equally well. I've already decided that on our next tour I'm going to carry a copy of the I Ching and refer to it's hexagrams on all important decisions. Hey, I might even become an economist.
"An expert is a person who has made all of the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." N Bohr


Kamala: “Why do you carry so much gear? You camp out?” Well, we don’t always camp out but it really comes in handy. We did a spring-break mini-tour back in 2002, We came upon a couple who were in their 50s. He had always wanted to do a cross-country bicycle tour. There he was, his wife at his side and his dream was now a reality. What did they carry? Almost nothing. They each a change of clothes and bare minimum tools. All went into two little (I mean little) panniers. I worried about them. Such long distances through the desert meant you HAD to get to your destination. What if something went wrong? What if ‘weather’ happened? What if . . .? From our experience it is not always possible to reach destinations and carrying all of our stuff gives us options.

Take yesterday for example. We have been going 58,  61,67 miles a day. While the days have been long, they also have been smooth. Tailwinds have added an extra perk. But ask any cyclist, what is their biggest enemy and I’ll bet they’ll answer, “Headwinds.” That is what happened yesterday.

We’re  working at slight incline all day and battling against a headwind. Our destination is 60 miles away and we start the day at 8:00 in the morning. By the time we make 36 miles at Melrose, NM at 2:30 in the afternoon, we know we’re in trouble. We can’t top 7 - 8 mph and the math means (which I constantly calculate and recalculate in my head while spinning pedals around) 3 or more hours of grinding. After Melrose, the incline mellows and we are able to get the speed up to about 9, but the northeasterly wind is icy cold. Our bones are chilled. Charley begins to look at the alternatives around us; we are going to wild camp. Finally, a small group of water elms appear along the road. Charley stops and goes checks it out. Wow! What a sanctuary! Looks like someone else saw it too, because they left a camp stove gas cylinder and a clearing where they pitched a tent. The trees provide perfect camouflage from passing cars. I watch as traffic passes by, and I can see that drivers are just mesmerized by the road directly in front of them and they don’t see us. We set up with stiffening cold fingers just in time. As Charley gets into the tent, the sun says goodbye for another day. We snuggle in our cozy down bag to warm up. The train rambles by on a nearby track tooting its horn of safety. We fall asleep, warm and snug, ever grateful of the cargo we haul around.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Leaving an old friend

Charley: Alas, we're leaving an old friend behind in Albuquerque, our tent. It has accompanyed us on several adventures but it has begun to take on more and more weight in the form of duct tape patches. Not long ago Kamala replaced one of the door zippers by robbing an old sleeping bag. Each new patch made it a little it heavier. We thought it had one more trip left in her, but after the other door zipper began to malfunction we had to consider putting her out to pasture and even though Kamala worked her magic, deftly bringing said zipper back on line, we both knew it was time. So we are of mixed feelings as we leave our old Mountain Hardware behind in Albuquerque with friends and take off on the next part our journey with a brand new REI half dome. A new tent is good, but because of our habit of atttibuting anthropomorphic qualites to things there's just a touch of sadness in our spirit.