R.I.P. Nissan Xterra

Brand new in September, 2002.

Two hundred twenty thousand, five hundred miles of adventures. Just shy of 20 years.

Without a doubt, the best vehicle I’ve owned. So many 4×4 roads and camping trips. It would be great if I could list all of them. From the great plains to the pacific ocean. Fourteen thousand feet to 100 feet below sea level (there are places in the southern California deserts that are below sea level).

On the afternoon of New Years Eve, the snow had been falling for a couple of hours. I encountered some ice going around a curve in “the canyon” and spun about 90 degrees counter clockwise, now heading downhill sideways, hoping there was no oncoming traffic. When I suddenly regained traction, it took me forward into the canyon wall on the left side of the road. I was probably only going 30 MPH, but the rock wall was unyielding. The impact was hard enough to cause the airbags to deploy (aka explode).

Fortunately, no other vehicles were involved. The moments after the bag explosion were a little surreal. A couple of passerbys stopped to see if I was ok. A fight broke out between two other drivers who had stopped. This seems to reflect the current state of our society in general. Everybody is at each other’s throats. Everybody is on high horses. Everybody knows better than everybody else.

The Xterra was finally towed to the junkyard yesterday, where it will be stripped of everything valuable and what’s left over will smashed and recycled. Not much different from a human life if you’re an organ donor.

Dawn in the Utah desert, May 2021.

The Xterra actually had a name: Atomsk (from the anime FLCL).


I’ve made it back to the land of Shooting Stars and Elephant Trunks.  If I hadn’t, I would have died trying.  It’s been a challenge because progress has been slow.   But I’m ecstatic because there has been progress!


Elephant Trunks


Shooting Stars


Hole in the log




Post Eclipse

After waiting decades for the opportunity, I started preparing for the total solar eclipse about 9 months ago. I scouted places to camp in the path of totality.  My initial thought was just to drive up to the sandhills in western Nebraska the night before, find a place to camp, then watch the eclipse.  But I started to grow concerned about the potential crowds and traffic.  Given that my friend Joel was coming out from California to join me, I decided something less impromptu was best.

I had learned about a bed and breakfast ranch in eastern Wyoming.  They were going to be opening the ranch to camping and were going to supply meals and port-a-potties.  Other friends had already made reservations, so I decided to join the crowd.  That was last January and I was one of the last to make a reservation before they sold out.

Eight days before the eclipse, there was the heart attack.  It didn’t seem prudent to be taking a journey to a remote part of eastern Wyoming only 5 days out of the hospital.  So arrangements were made for Joel to join other friends who were going to the ranch, and I would stay home alone.  The disappointment I felt was just icing on the cake of just how surreal everything was surrounding the heart attack.

I’ve seen a lot of partial solar eclipses, so I wasn’t terribly excited to see another one.  It was going to be 92% here. On the morning of the eclipse, the skies grew more cloudy and dark.  About a half hour before the maximum eclipse, I saw that the skies to the north were a little more clear, so I set out on the peak-to-peak highway looking for some sun.

I found a nice spot along the highway overlooking parts of the Switzerland Trail. I set up my tripod and camera, and with some neutral density filters for the lenses, pointed the camera at the sun.


92%-93% maximum eclipse from near the 39 mile marker of peak to peak highway.

It’s a pretty boring photo if you ask me.  I guess it’s proof that I was “there”. Looking around at the landscape was a more interesting.  I don’t think a photo would have captured it.  The subdued light was as dim as it would be around sunrise or sunset, but the shadows weren’t long, nor was there an orange glow.

It was noticeably cooler.  All of the clouds that were around before the eclipse had dissipated with the cooler temperature.

I headed back home as the light brightened up.   I guess now I should be looking forward to the next one in 2024.

As for me, I’m still trying to get my thyroid level stabilized.  Nothing corrects very fast when it comes to thyroid issues. And so many functions of the body are tied to thyroid levels. I’ve had central sleep apnea, where I just simply stop breathing. I have paresthesia in my feet and hands, and at times my entire body. My blood pressure has been running too low, which makes me feel pretty week.  My kidneys have been dumping fluids and electrolytes from my body. The recovery for these side issues has been more arduous than the recovery from the actual heart attack.  Everything was okay in the hospital, but some change in body chemistry associated with meds for blood and platelet thinners caused my thyroid level to tank.

There’s nothing like being a statistical anomaly when it comes to western medicine.  They just look at me and give me a shrug of their shoulders.