Porlex Coffee Grinder

Coffee GrinderAnother of my favorite simple tools is the Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder. I bought it a year ago to go with the Bodum Personal French Press that I reviewed a few days ago. I’ve used it enough now to have figured out how to use the tool.

The design is clean and simple. It’s a bean bowl (top) below which is housed the grinder (ceramic burrs) and a catch bucket at the bottom. The catch slides off the body of the grinder so you can dump freshly ground coffee into the brewer. (I use a French press for now.) A stainless steel handle connects to the mechanism via a pentalobed nut. Once beans are loaded into the hopper, the “wrench” is slipped over the nut and then grind away. It takes me a couple of minutes to grind a serving of coffee while the pot is on to boil. The handle is long enough to provide sufficient leverage for easy grinding.

Setting the grind is a bit “fiddly.” (I love that British colloquialism!) Once set, the grind has been consistent for me (so far). I have no idea how long the unit might last in daily use, but I’m going to find out.

There is a strong “rubber band” with a slot to hold the handle when not in use. The unit fits easily into my travel kit. I much prefer to buy beans and grind my coffee on demand. The burr-type grinders produce a better grind than the “chopping” machines. (I had one of those and gave it away.) Ceramic burrs last longer than steel (so I’m told).

I like this unit. The design is simple, clean, and there aren’t many moving parts. It’s small, compact with the removable handle, and there is enough leverage to easily grind coffee. As I said, I like this unit.

On to Vernal, Utah


After leaving Craig, Colorado I started working my way west. I paused a few times along the way to hunt for a geocache (and to get out of the car and enjoy the outdoors). The Girl, as always, really enjoys these stops. She travels well and is happy snoozing on the seat beside me, looking (and sniffing) out the window, and long-range cuddles (me stoking or giving her scratchies). What a wonderful companion.

We puttered along the way, enjoying the cool air and the bit of misty rain that we encountered. It was amazingly cool for summer — about 65F. I had to roll up the windows or be cold.

As I thought about our route along U.S. 40, I recalled seeing Dinosaur National Monument located near the Colorado-Utah border. Not knowing when I might again be this way, I decided to forego making miles and enjoy a diversion for a few hours enjoying the park. So, we stopped at the eastern welcome center and went inside. A ranger greeted us after finishing his visit with a small group of tourists. We chatted for a bit about his work and the park.

“The east side of the monument has the views and the altitude. The west side has the fossils and the heat.” He told us.

I elected to go for the fossils and save the views (and altitude) for our next visit. Perhaps by then I’ll have my mobile house and can stay a bit. It would be interesting to work the landscape with my cameras.

So, off we went… west. We paused in between the two parts of DNM to capture a geocache. When I clambered up on the ridge to get the hide, I glanced in both directions. U.S. 40 spread out before me in both directions. Each provided a distinctly different view. I liked the light better to the west and made this capture with my HTC One mobilephone and immediately made an Instagram post of it. Now I’m sharing it again, but this time with the story. What a great view of the arid west. I love this part of the country.

The Girl had a blast chasing rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. I had to call her back a couple of times because she’s always at risk of getting lost. In her prey-driven focus, she’ll completely forget where she is and where I am. She’s smart and dingy — an interesting combination. She could probably find me with her doggie-sense (perhaps not as good as spider-sense, but pretty-damned-good nonetheless), but she forgets to use her best tools. I often accuse her of being my blonde bitch. [Yes, I know that’s not PC; I don’t care.]

As an aside, I’ll add that I tell people that I like “big-chested blondes with tight asses” and then give the Girl a pat. Wife used to tell me “David! You can’t say that!” to which I would respond “I just did!” And then I’d smile. When I say that, I can hear my Dad’s voice. It is something similar to those things he’d say. I still miss him and he died 20-years ago. Bummer…

We scrambled back down the bluff and headed west in the 4Runner. As we lost altitude it became warmer. The atmospheric lapse rate is still a physical reality, I suppose. It wasn’t long before we found the turn-off to the Welcome Center on the west side and pulled in. There were quite a few cars in the lot and it was much hotter. It was too hot to leave the Girl in the rig, so I put her vest on, retrieved a banana for myself from the on-board stores, and we headed for the center. The Girl took time to sniff a bit and pee, then we walked up to the door.

We were greeted by a ranger who immediately took up with the Girl. I set up a greet and permitted the ranger and the Girl to interact while the ranger told me about the bus to the quarry. She said “follow the bus in your rig and the driver will open the gate for you. You can park at the top.” Having the Girl in-vest is a very good thing.

Dinosaur BoneWe went inside and bought (for a buck) a self-guided tour of the western part of DNM. Then we returned to the 4Runner and followed the directions. As instructed, the driver paused at the sliding gate, asked me about access, asked about the Girl, and how many in our party. Then she opened the gate and I followed them up to the parking area. We walked into the quarry building and then enjoyed an Earthcache and the view of the pile of fossilized bones. It was a genuinely enjoyable part of my journey and I took a lot of pictures inside the quarry, then outside from the parking lot.

After an hour or so, we headed back down the hill and started the self-guided tour. I was particularly interested in the petroglyphs and the old cabin where a woman lived and worked until she was in her nineties. Those are stories for another time, I think.

Hot and tired, we finally left DNM and drove into Vernal, Utah. Vernal is a bustling little city that seems to be thriving. We found a motel (The Weston Lamplighter — recommended) and went inside. They are no-pets, so I declared my service dog, provided some documentation, and checked in. We pulled over to our room and unloaded.

I wanted some Mexican food, so I spent a few minutes researching (Google is your friend, in this case), picked a place within walking distance, and off we went. The Plaza Mexicana was busy, noisy, and warm. I ordered a margarita and a meal (enchiladas) and enjoyed the drink and the chips. The salsa was a little authoritative so I ordered a second margarita.

Vernal, UtahMargarita! OMG! The second must have been a double! The food was very good, the margarita was great, and the sopapillas were passable. (I ate them!) Then we “meandered” our way back to the motel, or rather I “meandered” with the Girl wondering what was wrong with me. The evening light was good, but there was something wrong with my eyes, so my captures were less than optimal, to say the least.

Fed, hot, tired, and a little buzzed, I fed the Girl, we went out to the grassy area so she could have her toilet, and then retired for the evening. The A/C was great and there was little on TV. All was good after a long, enjoyable day and I fell asleep readily.

Tools I Use

Bodum Personal French PressAn idea occurred to me a few days ago. I should write about the tools I’m using now that I no longer have a house. Living small requires rethinking almost everything one does. I still cook for myself, whether I’m on the road or staying someplace. That means there are certain tools that are required. I’m learning as I go.

A couple of years ago I bought this small Bodum personal French press. I also have a small hand grinder (that I’ll write about later). I bought the press so that I could make a single cup of coffee in the afternoon if I wanted coffee but didn’t want to make a full pot. It got some use when I had the house, but not as much as I expected.

So, I started carrying it when I travel. However, using it requires heat to boil water. (There is another topic for writing. Don’t worry, I have a story there as well.) After this last trip, I realized I really like making my own coffee. McDonald’s coffee is much improved over the last couple of years with their new approach. (Kudos to McDonald’s for making that improvement! It’s one of the things I really like about the store.) But I really prefer my own choice of beans (or grounds) and my own method of preparation. I’m not really a snob, but I know what I like.

The body of the Bodum is glass, so care is required. But, it’s relatively easy to clean and is heat resistant. Just be careful with the body to mitigate the potential for breakage. The screen is fairly coarse so a coarse grind is required. Use is simple — grind coffee, add grounds to press, boil water (I suggest boiling water while grinding coffee), add water, steep, stir before pressing (I don’t do this step), and then press slowly.

If you are not picky about sediment in the bottom of your cup, the grind is less relevant. I don’t mind a little sediment, but think I’ll work on my grind to see if I can get it a bit more coarse than I currently have. Once you decant the coffee, set the press aside to cool while you enjoy your coffee. Then dump out the grounds and rinse the press. If oils accumulate, I suggest wiping them out with a paper (or cloth) towel. I will not use detergent on my press.

It’s simple, reliable, produces consistent coffee, and is easy to keep clean. With care, this press will last me the remainder of my life. I like it and would recommend it.

Routt National Forest

Columnar BasaltThe Girl and I left Denver on Friday, 3 July 2015 headed for western Nevada. I had some personal business there that needed my attention and I wanted to retrieve some things from my storage unit. Plus, it was just time for me to get out of Denver.

Older Son and DiL live on Capitol Hill in Denver. It’s a busy place and deep in the city. So, it has all the noise, commotion, and energy of a city. Although the place where Older Son and DiL live is fairly quiet, and the window A/C units we installed while I was there provided quite a bit of white noise, I could still feel that city-energy. After a couple of weeks, I just needed to be out of that.

I originally intended to stay in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. But I was unable to reserve lodging there so elected to go on a bit farther west and stayed in Craig, Colorado. Craig is not a small town at all; but it isn’t a city and the vibe there was calm, orderly, and a slower pace of life. But, I’m ahead of my story.

I left Denver and drove north on I-25 to Fort Collins, where I turned west on CO 14 — the Poudre Highway. Heading up into the foothills was quite busy as many folks were headed for the mountains (and I learned later, Steamboat Springs). Although I stopped for a couple of geocaches, I felt uncomfortable with all the traffic and eventually blew off searching for more hides. I elected to relax, enjoy the drive, and enjoy the river.

We stopped several times along the way to enjoy the warm mountain air (we also drove with the windows down and the A/C off), stretch legs, and make a capture or two. There was no reason to hurry as my mileage for the day was less than 300 miles.

When we arrived at Steamboat Springs, Jumping Jehosaphat! The town was crazy-busy with folks there for the 4th of July celebration. It was no wonder that no lodging was available. In any event, I was thankful that there was no lodging available as I would have simply traded the Denver energy for Steamboat energy. That would not have been a good thing.

So we drove on, thankfully.

About an hour later we arrived at Craig, Colorado. It was bustling, but the vibe was much calmer and my intuition told me that this was a good thing. Our motel was on the west side of town (missed it the first time), so we pulled in and walked into the office. The manager was there, remembered my telephone call, and checked me after consultation with an Asian woman (his wife?) about which unit would be best.

“That one too hot!” she exclaimed to two of his suggestions. “Put them in 18,” she said. So he did.

I backed into my parking spot so I could unload a few things from the 4Runner. I opened the door and looked around. The room was large, definitely old-school, and fine. I tossed the spread on the floor and brought in a few things. The Girl and I mounted back up (man it was hot) and drove to Walmart to reprovision for a couple of days. At the Walmart, we bumped into the manager who greeted us, “At Walmart already?” I laughed and bought a couple of salads, some fruit (bananas good!), and a six-pack of Coronas to celebrate our survival to date. Then we returned to our room.

I elected to boil a couple of eggs for my chef’s salad. It was my first use of the Pathfinder canteen stove I bought and my Trangia burner. I elected to sit outside my room because I was uncomfortable with the combustion products of the methylated spirits used in the Trangia. The wind gave me a little trouble and the simmer ring of the Trangia is, as the Brits say, “fiddly.” But I got my eggs boiled and learned a bit about using the stove and the process was relaxing (along with a Corona). The addition of the egg made the salad much better.

The Girl nibbled kibbles while I ate my salad and surfed the TV a bit. Yep… I still have little use for TV.

We rose early on the 4th and drove into town to find some food and coffee. We stopped at the local CoC and I found a self-guided tour of the area north of town in Routt National Forest. So we drove back to our motel, gathered up a few things to take along (camera, lenses, fruit, water) and headed out. Along the way, I found a big grassy area at the local middle school (out of session), so the Girl and I had a big play, refueled, and headed out on an adventure.

Once off the state highway, the route was all gravel road. We stopped to look for a couple of geocaches, but I lost phone signal and had not planned ahead, so there wasn’t much of that.

What there was, however, was a nice climb up to 5,000&endash;6,000 feet and the commensurate cooling. The sun was pretty, there was a little breeze, and the temperature was wonderful!

As we drove along, I noticed a bluff of columnar basalt. I stopped the 4Runner, got the Girl out, collected my camera, put on my boots, and we started up the hill. After just a few steps, a big mule deer jumped up, snorted at us, and bounced over the ridge. I didn’t have enough lens to capture him, but the capture is in my memory and will always be.

After a few minutes of hiking up the hill, I puttered around the bluff while the Girl did her thing. I have a few more captures that I still need to process.

The remainder of the drive was interesting, especially the Bear Ears (a pair of mountain tops). It was a good way to spend the Fourth of July — much better than hanging out in town. We were both tired and hungry when we got back to the motel. So, we ate, drank, and then cuddled before it was time to go to sleep. The fireworks bothered the Girl some and she stayed close to me. But she settled down after a bit and only stirred again for the finale.

It was a good day.

East from Austin, Nevada

Touring Biker

A few weeks ago (seems like ages now) I left Ely, Nevada on my way “home” to western Nevada. The Girl and I were not in a particular hurry. Although there was work to do (both the paying and non-paying kinds), there was little reason to rush and I spent much of my life rushing from one point to another, from one responsibility to another, and I’m just tired of all that rushing and pressure.

My new philosophy is to stop when I feel like it, look around, see what God offers, accept that with gratitude, and make the capture, enjoy the moment, or whatever response is called for at that point in time. Perhaps another statement would be “Embrace Uncertainty.” That has been my direction for this year.

Let me explain. At the beginning of this year I spent some time reflecting on the events of the last several years. There were trials and there were great times between 2011 and 2015. My future, though, was uncertain.

Over a period of a few weeks, a common theme emerged from my regular reading — “Embrace Uncertainty.”

Life is inherently uncertain. In our arrogance we believe we can plan years into the future. (Said planning has value, but one must remember that plans can and will change in response to outside influence.) I had arrived at a point where I did not know what was next. I thought my engagement might last long enough for me to reach full retirement age.

“No!” was the resounding answer from the universe. “That’s not the plan.”

Therefore, here I am. I have a vague notion of what I will do next. I will finish this report and a couple small projects. Then, I will go see Daughter and her family. After that I don’t know.

And that leads me to the serendipity of the capture above. The Girl and I paused for a respite on our journey. I wanted to be out of the 4Runner and in the morning air. She wanted to do doggie-things. I had my camera. The long-distance rider passed by and I made the capture. I have the feeling that there will be many more of these opportunities, God willing.