The Allentown Road Neighborhood

Holy smokes…  I am saddened that I have not gotten out and talked to my neighbors before. I know them by name… But when I roll up and talk to people who live around me and they start telling me everything that stinks about living here…  Well, you start to see recurring themes.

We all have the same issues.  Utilities blink in and out.  Frontier Internet sucks.  Our kids may or may not be going to school next year and we need to figure these things out before they are sent back home again!

We have sooooo much in common… But we have not been united in contacting the players involved.  Shame on us.  We are all connected to people all over the world, but I barely know people who live 100 yards away.

Regardless of what happens with my election campaign (win or not)… I feel like we need to do something to bring the neighborhood together.

On a side note… I will tell you that getting a half dozen signatures from your neighbors takes a lot longer than hitting people up in a parking lot!  I spent two hours gabbing.  But that was a good thing!

On another side note… One neighbor thought I was animal control when I rolled up in treehugger.  Apparently a raccoon has gone missing and she was afraid I might be there to cuff someone!  LOL

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weareliberty.vote

Check out this cool site setup for the local Libertarian Candidates!

www.weareliberty.vote

I swear I am working on a picture!

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Candidate Stahl

I’ll get into a little more later, but first things first… We have two Libertarian Candidates looking to get on the November Ballot in Tazewell County.  One of them happens to be me!  Sign the online form here:

https://swiftcloud.ai/is/share/lpillinois/Doc/f6e1ec74fafe87917f89?fbclid=IwAR2twmdHME5V1ZYPkgL_GT3clb4ZA0cl1YaL14k_9oXakRh3GX4G_BD5YY8

We need lots of signatures… 280  to be exact.    But ultimately, we would like to have double that total to deal with any shenanigans that might go on with the parties in power.

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Colorado 2019 – Part 3 – Ophir Pass

Our trip to Ouray in 2019 had hit a major issue.  The Mountain passes were overwhelmed with snow over the past winter.  Even in July, we were looking at passes that traditionally had been open by now that we’re still under 20 feet of snow, trees and avalanche debris.  Regardless of this news, we were still committed to camping and enjoying the area, even if it meant limited trail rides.  

On our second day of the trip, we decided to take a run down to Silverton via the Alpine loop.  The “loop” is a series of trails meshed together that run from Ouray to Silverton, over to Lake City and back.  Silverton is probably the ultimate tourist trap in the rockies.  Short of food and souvenirs, the once thriving mining town doesn’t have much to offer outside of   the main street of town  and  a wonderful assortment of small shops  

Our plans got a jolt when we got to the Loop trail head. 

Close your eyes and picture the worst lightning storm you have ever witnessed…   Then add some green and yellow to the clouds to make it look extra eerie….  Smash that vision between two mountains and visualize a rock strewn mountain pass going right up into the storm.  That’s what we observed at the trailhead to Alpine Loop.  It was nasty.  Something out of Lord of the Rings.  Like looking into Sauron’s all-seeing eyeball. Knowing that the freshly cleared trails were still avalanche strewn and now being washed down with rain and hail did not sound  appealing to any of us.  Especially since we were with our Daughters…  This was not a time to be filled with male bravado and jump into a bad situation in the name of adventure.  

Having been to Ouray a few times over the years, we have been on about every pass in that neck of the woods.  Just a few miles south of this pass on highway 17 was another scenic pass that heads to Telluride.  Ophir Pass.  I am obviously jaded from years of travel in the San Juan’s…  Because I was having a “I’m Bummed we have to take Ophir” moment with the other Dads.  Why?  Because I have this perception the Ophir is kinda lame.  Sorry!  I said it!   

Ophir is a below average trail when it comes to technical concerns.  It’s a loose gravel road with a steady consistency for the whole drive.  At the top of the pass was a great little spot to take a break and let the girls throw snowballs… At their respective Dads!  We grabbed some pictures with the sign and headed down the hill to Telluride.  While I am jaded about this “easy” trail…  My 17 year old daughter thinks it looks pretty scary.  So I did the scariest thing I had done on the whole trip… I put her in the driver’s seat for the drive down to Telluride.  

A few of the switchbacks going down require a multi-point turn on loose gravel…  Looking over a thousand foot drop.  My daughter was stressing and handling it like a champ.  Add this experience to her quiver of life experiences that make her that more confident on the road.  Me moving over to the passenger seat was the best thing that happened that day!

Ophir Pass may have been a tame ride from my veteran perspective, but to my daughter, it was an amazing drive!  Sometimes you need to get out of the driver’s seat and share the adventure.  

Next up, Telluride and cooler disasters!  

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Ric Ocasek revisited

It’s been 6 months since Ric passed away.  I have kept a social media vigil ongoing since that day with my Facebook profile picture being the cover from his first solo album, Beatitude.  

I have thought about why Ric and The Cars meant so much to me over my formative years.  I was enamored with all sorts of artists and bands since the late 70’s, but The Cars were nearly bedrock for my tastes over the next 40 years.  I explained a lot of it in my tribute, but now I have some distance on it.  

Without The Cars, I would not have listened to any number of artists.  Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo, The The and countless others might have been ignored in lieu of whatever was on the radio in Bloomington Illinois.  Those early influences led to me to have an open mind and explore countless fringe bands.  

If David Byrne passed tomorrow (heaven forbid!!), would I post a tribute like I did ofOcasek?  Probably not. Byrne, and the late Lou Reed along with many others have had a firm grip on my musical brain for decades, but they will have (and had) a musical going away party that stretched for decades.  Ocasek kinda faded out into the mist of nearly-forgotten by many. I guess that’s why I felt like I had to share my love for his work. An underappreciated artist?  

So, with that, I will say rest in Peace Ric.  You are missed… and I am playing that first solo album a lot lately.  

 

It’s worth a side note here…  When you compare what the band looked like in 1978 vs 1986… It’s a shocking display of styles changing.  How can that much happen in 8 years?

You know what Mumford and Sons looks like after 10 years?  The same band. Eddy Vedder? That dude has been wearing flannel for 30 years!  Nobody changes it up anymore… Except Madonna, and everyone thinks (knows) shes crazy.  Maybe people cant handle a brand changing that much anymore. Steve Jobs rocked a black turtle neck for decades.  Stick with your brand or be the cutting edge. I like to think Ric and other New Wave bands were on the lead edge.  Whether that was music, style or even videos… They were leading the charge for new and regional while others kept repeating formulas for success.  

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3dBotMaker

This is an article I wrote for Throwin’ Wrenches.  Are you subscribed to the podcast?

www.throwinwrenches.com

 

While Daryl is cruising the tourist attractions of Orlando…  I’m stuck home “cyber-cruising” YouTube.  When I am not watching Donut Media or Expedition Overland, I am browsing for new channels and talent.  Usually, my night ends up on a Russian Traffic-fail channel.  (Dont even judge me, I know you watch them too!)  Good news though, I have found a new channel to love on, my current obsession is a YouTube page called 3DBotMaker Die Cast Racing.

Lil Bread's S2000 caught on the curb

Lil Bread’s S2000 caught on the curb

Find me a kid who had hot-wheels tracks in the 70’s or 80’s that didn’t run countless races on their prized collection of Matchbox or Hot-Wheels cars.  It was a universal truth that all kids wanted to know which one of their cars was fastest.  Now, if the kid documented the process, its a safe bet they work in accounting or with actuarial tables for a living!  With even the most basic track setup, with an adolescents IQ, a system of single elimination races would be run.  Countless races would be run to finally figure out that your General Lee from Hardee’s was no faster than a Matchbox Winnebago camper.

So, when I ran across the 3D Bot Maker YouTube channel a few weeks ago, I was a bit intrigued.  He’s racing Hot Wheels, Matchbox and a few off brands of 1/64th Die Cast vehicles.  Unlike my efforts at home 30 years ago, he’s also doing it in professional grade video, audio and titles.

Lil Bread’s S2000 getting knocked off the track

First off, lets understand the name and who these folks are.  3DBotMaker is the name of the business that started making accessories for the old style Mattel Hot Wheels tracks.  With some serious tech and a 3D printer, this guy is making electronic start gates and digital timing systems.  He was into the hobby before the video aspect as far as I can tell.

I found this channel searching for a Toyota S2000.  Somehow I stumbled onto the Japanese Car tournament that eventually led to a crazy wreck of “Lil Bread”.    The road to the Japanese Car championship was surprisingly long and thorough.  I was fully invested in these cars to the final races.  (each race video is 10 to 15 minutes, and can take several episodes to get to the championship races) One of the cars in the final running was a black Toyota S2000 with a driver named Little Bread.  During one of the final races, the real life million dollar ride was cast off the track and made a dramatic fall into the “fan parking” area beneath the track.  3D announced the event with faux concern that rivaled most anything on a real race broadcast.  In the end, we assume Lil Bread passed away in the grizzly accident.

What a second…  Lil Bread is not real.  Nor is this a real Toyota S2000.  This is where it all goes sideways in the rational mind.  This diecast race of 1/64th scale cars is made up and contrived… Right?  What is real racing?  If you watch a series of elimination rounds of 3D Bot Maker…  You will question everything you believe about racing; that the Driver is an integral part of the race.  There are no drivers in these cars.  There is nothing but gravity pulling the cars down a series of turns and declines.  Somehow, with the help of the capable announcer(s), this is enough to make for compelling viewing!  Who would have believed it?

I had to shop this idea around to make sure I am not crazy.  First, I confirmed my hypothesis with some guys at work…   And I now have my wife watching the Saturday releases of the

The death of Lil Bread

Ferrari championship series.  She even knows the cars now.   Folks, its confirmed, this is racing!  Childish, driver-less racing that will draw you in and consume you until you watch your favorite themed series.  (or watch everything they make!)

It may seem like I am jumping on the bandwagon with this post…  Jalopnik and some others have started throwing out some articles about 3DBotMaker, but I can assure you I have been a fan for a few months now!  Far predating the band-wagoners!

Post Script

I do have a concern, and it may seem hysterical that I am critical of anything they are doing.  I am afraid they might be having their “Jump the Shark” moment with the Ferrari series.  A little levity is great and I am not taking it too seriously.  Without giving anything away…  I’ll only say this, lets not think that people are here for the comedy… Its the racing that brought me in and continues to keep me hooked!

Links

https://www.3dbotmaker.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjN5K3IYZgz-vCWhI_DD01A

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Italy 2020… Postponed!

The plan was hatched at Jillian Giancarli’s H.S. Graduation.  Italy 2020.  My Mom and her Sisters along with all their spouses…  And my immediate family tagging along.  We had hoped for more family involvement, but this is a major international trip, and we were lucky to have this much coordination!  Not only was the American family making plans.  We also had family in Italy making plans to meet us when we arrived.

It was supposed to be the family trip of a lifetime.  Not that we are in any danger of losing any family members…  But we had the rare opportunity to have 5 (or more??) sets of families organized to meet in Rome… Eventually travelling to Beffi…  The old family homestead.

Coronavirus 2020 stopped all that.  At the time I write this, Rome has been moved up to a level 3 travel risk by the US government…  Following in the footsteps of provinces in the northern part of that country.

This led us to cancel our trip that was scheduled to depart Illinois on the 17th of March.  A level 3 alert could mean that we are quarantined upon arrival back into the USA…  And that was not going to work for us.  None of us could risk being locked down at home for two weeks.

Back to Beffi.

My Mom’s, Mom’s, Dad’s family (Giancarli) immigrated to the US from Beffi a very long time ago!  I think?  See I am not sure if its a Matioli or Giancarli lineage that arrived from Beffi.   Could have been the Mom’s Mom’s Mom as well (Matioli).   I was kind hoping to learn about all of this as we got the tour from family members who still remember those long emigrated branches of the family tree that extend to my fam.

Other members of my family have made the trek back to Beffi over the decades and report that the house my Great Grandfather was born in is still there.  Truly, this must be a sight to see?  I have no other tangible connection to anywhere else in the world that goes back this far.  To go to this location and know that my history does not exist without this city in Italy would be an interesting moment to be sure.

Eventually…  Some, not all, of the Beffi family made it the USA… And made their way to Peoria.  When some members didn’t make it through Ellis Island and were sent back… Things got confusing.  Again, I was hoping to learn more.  The family that made it in were deposited at Guardian Angel Home on Heading Avenue in Peoria (Where Ang used to work) until more family could make it over to the states.

It was then that Dominic Giancari and Sarafina Mattioli would marry and make a home in Fairbury.

There are more stories involved…  Like how Sara got across the border from Mexico as a second option that I dont really know that well. Might be time for an oral history with my grandmother so I have this all clear for the next generation!

This was the trip.  Go to Rome for a few days.  Hit the Vatican for a day.  Then spend 2 days in the mountains Northeast of Rome at the family stomping grounds.  Soak it in.   I may never go there again.  Take the kids, as they may never understand this all again without the extended family who would be present.  Lots of opportunities to learn about our heritage that I fear now will be as fragmented as before.

I am not scared of Cornavirus per se… But I am concerned about the repercussions of coming back to the US before they have any kind of cure or vaccination.  The bug will span the globe eventually.  Its just a matter of time before we see it here whether we went to Italy or not!

On the bright side…  We did get trip insurance.  The trip we booked was with Great value vacations.  We used them for Scotland last year and were really pleased.  With the travel insurance, we were able to keep our monies for the trip and move them to a trip to be booked later.  We lost a few hundred bucks, but overall, that was a fraction of the trip price.  So, if we dont make Italy in the next 12 months, expect to see us in some other exotic local!

www.greatvaluevacations.com

 

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Colorado Adventure Part 2 – Bear!

In 2018, when the Trail Team came out to Ouray… We had scouted out an area for camping on the south side of town, up about halfway on the route out of town.  The spot had not been ideal for one camper in our group with an adventure trailer. (There’s a whole conversation we could have as a sidebar to this post)  The trail to the campsite had a few rough patches of rocks and some sharp elevation changes. This year, with the three 4Runner sans the adventure trailer, we again scouted the area upon arriving to Ouray.  The trail was actually kind of fun, and when we reached the camping area, we found 3 empty spots set beside each other, up against a creek in an empty mountainside valley.  

This new-to-us camp spot was ideal, as we were close to Ouray and all of the local mountain passes.  Ouray is called Little Switzerland for a reason, for a good chunk of the year, its surrounded by snow capped mountains.  In a typical late-June trip, we were going to have our pick of a half dozen mountain trails to head over to the surrounding communities of Telluride, Silverton and Lake City.  

As we setup, the three girls took a walk to large boulder that was about 150 yards away, sitting neatly in the grass near the edge of the woods.  This single rock was as big as a Large Airstream Camper. The girls climbed it and watched us setup camp from their perch. 

Two of us with tents setup on the ground while Don, found a level spot to park his truck to use his rooftop tent (RTT).  Don and I were carrying food prep supplies as well… So we unloaded his custom made “chuck box” and my cooking gear to make the trucks easier to deal with on the trails.  Lets be clear, the trucks could handle the weight of the cargo. What we could not handle being on the trail with all of our gear getting bouncing around and the endless rattles of pots, pans and cutlery!  

At our base-camp for the next three days, we started off every morning with homemade breakfast.  I don’t want to brag, but we made breakfasts that would rival anything we could cook at home. As we have done more and more of these trips, I would be lying if I didn’t say that we are getting more extravagant with our meal prep.  That’s not to say we have elaborate meals, but we are not scared to use real ingredients to get the job done. On a recent trip, two days out in the field, done fixed homemade biscuits and gravy using a dutch oven to cook the biscuits… And his skottle to cook the sausage and gravy.  

Our trip seemed to his a high note on day two when a visitor came close to camp after breakfast.  While cleaning up our breakfast, Sophie yelled “Bear”… We all looked at her with question marks over our heads…  “huh?” “Not possible” all of us Dad’s thought in unison. It wasn’t till she yelled it again that we took her word for it and started looking around.

Sure enough… Sophie had witnessed a decent sized brown bear crossing the pasture in front of our campsite.  He was actually terrifyingly close to the boulder the girls had been playing on that first night of camp setup.  The “what-ifs” start flashing through your head when you think about the vision of your kid being on that rock while a bear would have been way closer than us Dads!  No worries… This guy took a look at us and kept up scooting into the woods towards town.

Dear readers… A bear passing by camp is a bucket-list event.  We have been going out west for over 5 years now, and I have never seen a bear in the wild.  We have camped and driven all over Colorado! So, seeing one in the wild, near our campsite… Well, this is one for the folks back home… We will be telling them all the tales of the bear that visited camp!  (And we have!)

10 minutes later…  Those stories got a whole lot bigger!  Summer, was walking to the backside of the camp when she saw a big brown face looking at her from the blades of tall grass behind Jake’s tent.  It was a bear! Probably that same bear that was passing by a few minutes ago. She yelled! Several, short, shocked yells! The bear backed off and started walking away.  Summer’s yell was a whole different vibe than Sophie’s. Sophie’s had been a fun “hey looky” thing… Summer’s was more of a mortal fear blurt!

What happened next was pure Dad instinct or something…  Don, our California guy proceeded to yell in the loudest and biggest fashion I had ever witnessed.  He puffed up his chest and began a guttural yell that said I pretty sure was meant to freak the bear out.  “Go Away Bear” was the words coming out of his mouth… But it sounded as primal as a dog bark! In the meantime…  I grabbed some pans and followed Don with some banging. I know Jake was doing something as well… But I was transfixed on the location of the bear.  (Sorry Jake!) The bear proceeded to wander down to the stream and disappeared into the woods.  

When the excitement was over…  One thing was clear… The RTT was the preferred location to be when a bear shows up.  We had all three girls up in Don’s tent looking out the window at us. Nobody was taking sanctuary in a ground tent!  NOBODY!  

Was this guy hungry and ferocious…  And possibly looking to recreate a scene from the Revenant?  Not likely.  If you had to guess, this bear is probably closer to Yogi and BooBoo in his habits.  I am not denying the danger of a wild animal like a bear… But this guy was on a route.  The valley where we were staying was a series of camping spots that are probably used quite a bit during the summer season.  This bear, like a Midwestern raccoon, probably runs a route through the campsites looking for scraps that campers left in their fire rings or trash from careless campers.  It was probably no accident that he walked right up to our site. (Another opportunity for a conversation about Leave No Trace could be inserted here!)

This was day two of the trip…  We had to question whether leaving out all of cooking gear in the open was going to be a good idea today.  Again, we don’t want to drive the mountain passes with our gear… But we also don’t want items with the smell of fresh cooked breakfast laying around for the sensitive nostrils of the local wildlife.  What do you do? We cleaned up… Pulled all trash out and left our gear out in the open. If he was going to come back… He could really do whatever he wanted, regardless of how much of the campsite we pulled up.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t sniff something on a tent from a camp out years ago? (Again, more conversations about the dangers of eating in your tent, or sleeping in clothing that you have cooked in could be added.)

When we came back that night from our short day on the trail to Telluride (Part 3, coming soon-ish) the campsite was pitch black.  We turned into the campsite, looked the site over with our headlights, and found everything in order. It was doubtful that our new found friend had come back, or that any of his other friends had swung by.  A quick inspection verified the lack of wild animals frolicking in our tents or cooking  gear. That was a relief.  

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that sleeping that night in my Cabella’s ground tent was done with a slight tinge of trepidation, knowing that a giant man eating bear with razor sharp claws could be plotting to eat my daughter and I alive during the night!  Exaggeration? Maybe. But when you hear creaks and snaps in the woods around your tent… You wonder what the intentions are of the beast that is making all that racket. Fortunately, we made it through the night with no incidents.  

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Colorado 2019 – Part 1 – #3dads3daughters34runners

For the past few years we have made the trip to Ouray Colorado for FJ Summit or to be near the area to catch a bit of “Summit”.  FJ Summit is an annual event that brings in 300+ Toyota trucks to a little town in the middle of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with some of the best mountain pass roads in the United States. 

This year… Complete madness at work had left me in a position where I was not sure I could plan a trip to the grand scale of years past.  Adding to the confusion… My kids were not cooperating either. One kid was graduating High School and the other had a social agenda that was hard pressed to spend time with “Dear ole Dad”.  

Never fear…  A trip was going to happen whether I showed up for not!  Other Trail Team trip members were making sure that something was going to happen this summer.  Three families were making plans with our without me being along for the ride. When the smoke cleared… Two Trail Team Dad’s, Don and Jake, had grabbed their daughters and started a trip to Ouray by way of the Rimrocker trail in Moab Utah.  If I hustled… I could meet up with them in Ouray for a long weekend of camping pre-FJ Summit.

When the time came to take flight and catch up with the others out in Colorado…  I was lucky enough to have my newly graduated Daughter along for the trip. We headed out early from Central Illinois to make the rendezvous for camping near Ouray.  Pekin to Denver is a 14 hour trip. Ouray is another 4 hours past that. We stopped in Denver after the first day of driving.  

There were a 100 different combinations of drivers, co-pilots and kids that could have shown up this year to Colorado.  Ironically… The other trucks, like me, had all come in 4Runners with their daughters. The trip could have just as well been 4 dads, 4 kids and 4 4runners…  On the 14 hour ride out to meet up with Jake and Don… It started to fall into place. Three Dads… Three Daughters…. And Three 4Runners. Serendipity? Kizmit?  Who knows. But it was a great trip vibe starting and a great tag for Instagram.

#3dads3daughters34runners

Stay tuned… More to come about this trip!

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Desert Life… The Ick Factor

The third and final day on the Mojave Road trail was an idyllic morning.  I had woken up around 6AM and could feel the peaceful air from inside by ground tent.  Not a breath of wind was to be heard and the brightness on the outside of the tent meant that there must not have been many clouds either.  I unzipped by door shade and revealed the cloudless, crystal clear blue sky that I was hoping for.  

 

I unzipped the door and let the cool air flow into my tent.  It was so quiet and perfect that I curled back up into my sleeping bag and dozed off for a bit longer.  

It was brisk, 50 degrees or slightly better.  But experience told me that a few hours later we would be up to the mid 70’s.  Today being our last day on the trail meant a small breakfast, a few hour drive to the end of the road near Zzyzx.  To this point on the trail, I had been wearing jeans/pants and boots for the uncertainty of the trail. What if something went wrong?  I can’t be recovering a truck in sandals! 

 

This morning had all the signs that it was time to relax.  I put on the one pair of shorts I had packed and pulled out the Sanuk flip flops and pretended today was a beach day.   The morning was uneventful. I broke camp and took 

down my tent, sleeping pad and cot in a slow pace as to make sure everything was packed correctly for the ride home.  I then took the portable toilet setup and headed off a few hundred steps to have a relaxing view of the landscape. I parked the seat up near some black volcanic rocks that had some old coyote holes burrowed into them.  We had scouted them before, and they appeared empty.  

Everything was right with the world…  Until it walked into camp… A Tarantula

The day before when we arrived at camp, one of the other campers, Mike, had been out looking for the hairy spider lairs.  We found holes in the ground that might have been the home to giant arachnids. Don, our resident desert expert said with some authority that the Tarantulas were not going to be active during our visit.  This was enough affirmation for me… Nothing to worry about here.  

Well…  Our new friend with 8 legs wasn’t listening to Don.  This 4 or 5” spider was gingerly walking into the middle of camp.  He appeared out of nowhere under a truck and then started heading towards our fire-ring.  We took a few pictures of the guy as he was moving along. He did seem to be at a slow pace because of the temps.  As he was halfway across camp… Orin, another of our campers, used a small stick to interfere with his route. The spider didn’t care for this one bit.  I swear that he jumped 2 feet and started hustling his pace.   

I don’t know what happened to our spider from that point forward…   I stopped caring about him and started thinking about self preservation.  Immediately, I looked down and my flip-flopped feet and bare legs and realized that I might be unprepared for more spiders.  I turned back to the open field behind the campsite in fear that I be looking upon view from the film “Kingdom of the Spiders” or “Arachnophobia”.  Wave upon wave a newly awoken Tarantulas crawling out of their beds to visit our band of squatters set up in their territory. Nothing yet… But they could be preparing a calculated raid.

I then started thinking back over the morning… I had slept with an open door to the desert…  I had been on my knees in the sand rolling up my tent and bedding materials… My open air bathroom visit earlier was also fraught with peril as I had not been looking over my shoulder at any point during the day.  There were countless opportunities for a hundred spiders to have murdered me in the Mojave.  

As it turned out… We only had one tarantula visit our camp (that we know of).  But this was enough for me to realize that jeans, boots and some form of Kevlar are your best protection out in the desert.  Also, I don’t know if we have a snake bite or spider bit kit… But it might be something to pack for future trips!

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