10 Things I Love About Van Life

Standard

The Man and I tend to say Van Life! to each other when things go wrong. We may mutter the words while shaking our heads or say them with glee, but when we lose something in the vortex of the van; spill the entire contents of the dog’s water bowl onto the grungy carpet; or the New Mexico wind is too strong for cooking outside, and one of us is on our knees on the dirty floor trying to make dinner, it’s Van Life we blame.

In response to the occasional hardships of living in the van, I got to thinking about the joys of van life. I came up with 10 things I love about van life, in no particular order.

#1 No toilet to clean–ever!

#2 Less space in which to lose things. (Although, believe me, with two people living in the van, things are often misplaced. I think things are sucked into an invisible van vortex) At least when I lose something, I know the lost item is in the van somewhere.

#3 I’ve got interesting travel stories to tell at parties.

#4 No rent to pay for a sticks and bricks dwelling, and I don’t typically stay at campgrounds that charge fees, so I can spend my money on fun and not on housing.

#5 If I get tired of living in one place, it’s easy to go somewhere else. I barely even have to pack!

#6 On a related note, if I end up near neighbors I don’t particularly like, I can leave.

#7 I can also move with the weather. No more being stuck in snow! No more being stuck in the heat! I can move up and down in elevation when I get too hot or too cold.

#8 Most of my meals are picnics.

#9 Beautiful landscapes are often right outside my door.

I took this photo of the view from the van’s windshield in April 2017. This forest is right outside Flagstaff, AZ.

#10 I can get the entire van home clean in less than a couple of hours.

I wonder what other folks love about van (or car or Jeep or SUV or RV) life. Feel free to leave comments about your favorite parts of your transient way of life.

And as always, feel free to ask me questions about my van life.

Adamsville

Standard

Unfortunately, the information about Adamsville on the sign is not easily readable in this photo.

While I was exploring in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens in Quartzsite, AZ;  I ran across an area dedicated to Adamsville.

According to http://www.celiasrainbowgardens.com/, the Quartzsite Historical Society donated the buildings of Adamsville to the project. The

wooden buildings…had been given to them by the man who had built them, Babe Adams, from Parker.

Four of the fifteen little buildings that make up Adamsville.

There [are] 15 little buildings, including a schoolhouse, church, sawmill, barn and stables, marshall’s office, stage depot, log cabin, house, motel, saloon and house of ill repute, as well as a boot hill and more.

According to the Roadside America website (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/12493),

Celia’s Rainbow Garden includes “Adamsville,” a miniature village started in 1974 by Babe and Babs Adams at the RV park they lived at in Castle Rock. They donated the village to the Quartzsite Historical Society, who restored it and placed it here in 2001.

I found no indication of who exactly Babe and Babs Adams were or why they liked creating tiny buildings to make up a little Old West town. I’m also not sure if the little town is named for Babe and Babs Adams or if it is supposed to be a replica of Adamsville, which, according to http://www.ghosttownaz.info/adamsville-ghost-town.phpone, was one of the first settlements in the Arizona Territory.

The aforementioned Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website says the buildings have been restored at least twice. I guess the desert weather is pretty hard on them.

The same website says,

The center bed of the pioneer village had an original wagon from early Quartzsite history added…

This photo shows the “original wagon from early Quartzsite history.”

I was not able to find any information about who the wagon belonged to or what it was used for or in what time period it was used.

I wasn’t too thrilled by Adamsville, but I did spend a few minutes looking at the little buildings making up the town. I have no idea how historically accurate any of the buildings are, but maybe the Quartzsite Historical Society could offer more information to anyone who’s interested.

I took all the photos in this post.

RV Women Memorial

Standard

One of the reasons I really wanted to visit Celia’s Rainbow Gardens was because one of my readers at the RTR told me there was a memorial space out there for van dwelling women. That sounded really cool, so I went looking for the memorial one morning.

I didn’t know where within the gardens the memorial was, so I took my time looking around. Finally, I found what I’m pretty sure my reader was talking about.

Maybe I misunderstood what my reader told me, because the memorial isn’t exactly for van dwelling women. It’s broadly for women who travel in RVs and specifically for women in the RVing Women community.

This photo shows the small plaque on the rock at the back of the circle pictured above. The smaller plaques feature the names of RVing Women who have taken their final journey.

According to http://www.rvingwomen.org/,

RVing Women is a National network whose members come from across the US and Canada. Established by and for women who are interested in RVing, we have Chapters across the country that offer camping, educational, and social events. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy many indoor and outdoor activities and hobbies.

RVing Women offers support and friendship for women who plan to travel by RV, already own one, have hung up their keys, or are just dreaming about RV possibilities.

A sign in the RVing Women space says this memorial was built in 2011 by the women of Camp Runamucka.

From what I’ve read, members of different RVing Women chapters meet in Quartzsite each winter. They  camp together and attend workshops and socialize. Sometimes they have work days at the RVing Women memorial within Celia’s Rainbow Gardens. It is the RVing Women who maintain this memorial area to honor and remember their RVing sisters who have passed away.

I especially enjoyed looking at the rocks upon which folks have painted different types of RVs.

Throughout the memorial area, there are small plaques with names on them affixed to larger rocks. Each small plaque features the name of an RVing Woman who has passed away. I bet it is comforting to visit the memorial and find the name of an RV-loving friend or sister or daughter or mother or partner who has left this earth. It must be a good place to remember and reflect.

I wish there were a memorial space for van dwelling women. If there is one, I wish someone would tell me about it. If there isn’t, I wish someone would start it.

If any of my readers are interested in joining RVing Women, the group’s  website says the following about their mission, vision, and values:

Mission :

Provide women RVers, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or financial status, a supportive network and the opportunity to enjoy the RVing lifestyle in a safe and knowledgeable manner.

Vision:

A premier organization for women interested in the RVing lifestyle.

We Value:

  • Diversity of our members.
  • Integrity and respect.
  • The abilities, skills and resources of each member.
  • The time and efforts of those who provide leadership and support.
  • Our chapter structure which provides a supportive network.
  • Educational opportunities to promote safe RVing.

 

I took all of the photos in this post.

Roadside America (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/12493) gives these directions to get to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens: [from] I-10 exit 19. Drive north on Riggles Ave., take the second left, then make the first right onto Main St./Plymouth Ave. [F]rom E. Main Street drive North on S. Plymouth Ave. The closest intersection to the park is E. Senter St & N. Plymouth Ave, and the driveway is just north of that. This garden is accessed from a dirt drive into the Town Park, and has a sign. The RC Flying Field is just past the access.

Once inside Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, have a look at all the memorials while looking for the RVing Women space; I don’t know how to explain how to get there.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens

Standard

I heard of Celia’s Rainbow Gardens after my first trip to Quartzsite, AZ for the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Someone else who’d been at the RTR wrote about the gardens on her blog, and I was sorry I’d missed them. But I missed the gardens again both times I went through Quartzsite on my way to California, and I somehow managed to not make it out there when I was in town for the 2016 RTR. I vowed I would go to the gardens in 2017, and I did.

According to http://www.celiasrainbowgardens.com/,

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, [are] located in the Quartzsite Town Park [and] encompass 8 acres of the 40 acre park. The gardens were inspired by the dreams of Celia Winer, an 8-year old girl whose goal in life was to make the world a better place.

The Roadside America website (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/12493) says,

One of the “memorials to dead people” found in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.

Celia was not yet nine years old when she died in 1995. The town, assisted by local RV’ers, built a garden of rocks in her memory that continues to grow with memorials to dead people.

As someone who likes cemeteries (read posts  I wrote about cemeteries here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/05/16/ajo-cemetery/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/10/30/888/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/20/hi-jollys-tomb/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/29/old-kernville-cemetery/), I enjoyed walking around and looking at the memorials in the gardens. Many snowbirds come to Quartzsite year after year. Many of these folks never know each other in their hometowns or even their home states. When a member of a Quartzsite snowbird community dies, it must be nice for the survivors to have a place in the town where the friendship thrived to pay their respects and remember their friends.

There are more than just “memorials to dead people” in the gardens, and it’s not just a “garden of rocks either.” It’s a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants. The aforementioned Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website says “[a]ll plants, trees, cacti etc. will eventually have identification markers…”

There’s an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens. This area is called The Hero’s Bell Garden. An article called “Vets Remembered Inside the Garden” (http://www.celiasrainbowgardens.com/News/2006/5-17-06.asp) explains, the

archway [is] made of telephone poles with a cross beam on which two huge iron bells [are] suspended. These bells can be rung during special services.

On the Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website, there is a map with information describing many of the areas of the gardens. Near the front of the gardens is

Celia’s Oasis—A special area in memory of Celia and other children
who are remembered…It [is] surrounded by a low wall with the handprint bricks made by the children Celia went to school with.

There’s a palm tree plaza where

[t]he large palm [sic] in this semi-circle were donated by Main Event owners Howard and Marilyn Armstrong, and were planted by his crew.

There are benches in this area and throughout the park so visitors have places to sit and reflect, pray, or meditate.

There’s also an area with a

mining equipment display donated by BLM, showing some of the early equipment used in the mines in this area.

Of course, nothing in Quartzsite which might draw visitors from out of the area is complete without at least one reference to a camel, so there is a camel silhouette in this area too.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens offer folks the opportunity of some quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of Quartzsite commerce. However, even in January, the sun was strong and I got warm pretty quickly. The gardens are nice to visit, but as when you do anything in Quartzsite, even in the winter, bring a hat and some sunscreen and a bottle of water.

I took all of the photos in this post.

The Roadside America website gives the following directions to get to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens: [from] I-10 exit 19. Drive north on Riggles Ave., take the second left, then make the first right onto Main St./Plymouth Ave. [F]rom E. Main Street drive North on S. Plymouth Ave. The closest intersection to the park is E. Senter St & N. Plymouth Ave, and the driveway is just north of that. This garden is accessed from a dirt drive into the Town Park, and has a sign. The RC Flying Field is just past the access. 

 

Saguaros in Bloom

Standard

Last year, I spent the first couple of weeks of May in Why and Ajo, AZ. I was waiting to receive a check from my insurance company, and I didn’t have anyone who could forward it to me at my next destination. I was a little bit stuck waiting for the check to arrive.

I tried to use my time well. I wrote and scheduled a lot of blog posts, read, cleaned the van, and made hats. Every day I checked the mailbox, and day after day, there was nothing in there for me.

The days got hotter and hotter. By the time I left in the middle of the month, daytime temperatures were reaching the high 90s. Although the temperature dropped at night, after baking in the sun all day, my van only cooled enough for me to sleep comfortably after several hours. Luckily, I felt safe where I was staying and could leave my doors open to the cool night air long after dark.

The upside of staying in the Sonoran Desert until May was seeing the saguaros bloom.

Tjs Garden blog (https://tjsgarden.com/2015/04/23/saguaro-cactus-bloom-flower-national-park-arizona/) says,

The Saguaro cactus will produce white flowers from April to June.

The Saguaro flowers do not bloom all at the same time.  Only a few flowers bloom each night waiting to be pollinated and then wilt by early afternoon.

According to the website of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Flowers%20and%20Fruit.php),

Saguaro flowers bloom for less than 24 hours. They open at night and remain open through the next day.

Saguaro flowers are usually found near the tops of the stems and arms of the cactus. They are white in color about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter.

During the night the flowers are pollinated by the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat. During the daytime the flowers are pollinated by bees and birds such as the white-winged dove.

It was a challenge to get photos of flowers growing on the tops of very high saguaros. I had to stretch my arms as far up as possible, use the camera’s zoom feature, and hope for the best. I think I did a pretty good job of capturing the beauty of the saguaro blooms.  I particularly like the shots where I can clearly see the wilted flowers, those currently in bloom, and the buds about to burst open.

The aforementioned Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website says,

After the flowers have been pollinated they mature into bright red fruit. When the fruit ripens it split open showing juicy red pulp. Each fruit can contain up to 2000 small black seeds.

I didn’t have to hang around until the flowers turned to fruit. My check arrived just before I had to leave for my California job. I hit the road before the desert temperature rose into the triple digits. It would have been nice to see the fruit, but I’m satisfied with having witnessed the flowers.

I took the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Do You Grow?

Standard

It was in the last days of my second season as a camp host when I went to the group campground to check in the astronomy club staying there for the weekend. When I asked around, I was told the person who’d made the reservation had not yet arrived. A nice guy in my age group offered to sign the permit, so I wrote down his address and other pertinent information.

I meant to give him a fire permit too, so using their camp stoves would be legal, but I realized hours later that I’d forgotten to do so.

The next morning when I went back to the group campground, I had the fire permit ready for the same guy to sign. I’d simply copied the man’s address from the camping permit onto the fire permit. When I found the man and asked him to sign the permit, he jokingly asked if I’d memorized his address.

I explained I’d copied his address from the camping permit. Then he asked if I planned to visit.

I began to wonder if the man was flirting with me. Men never flirt with me, so I’m not sure I could recognize flirting if it actually happened. His being in my age group made flirting more probable, but I decided he was just being friendly.

I told him I couldn’t visit because I didn’t even know where his town was.

It’s in Santa Cruz County, he told me. We have a big organic farm. You could park your van on our farm.

(I don’t know exactly who the other people included in his “we” were.)

I made a bland comment about it must be nice to live on a farm. Then I  said, Do you grow…?

I meant to end the sentence with something clever, but nothing clever came to mind. (That’s what I get for I opening my mouth with no plan on how to end what I’ve already started to say.) Instead of ending the sentence with something at least reasonable, if not clever (beets? pumpkins?) I simply let the sentence hang there unfinished.

Then I realized, Santa Cruz County and Do you grow? when taken together have a definite marijuana connotation. What if he thought I was asking if they grew weed on the organic farm?

I’d never ask a stranger if he grew pot. It seems like a rude question, even in California, seeing how marijuana is federally illegal and all. It’s none of my business if someone is growing weed. It’s safer for everyone to keep marijuana cultivation on a need to know basis, and I don’t need to know!

I’m not sure if the man recognized my awkwardness. He started talking about the zucchini he and whoever else lives on the farm grows. He told me all about the big, big zucchini.

Any flirting that may have been going on was entirely incompetent.

 

Asked to Leave

Standard

I want to say I was kicked out, but that would make the event a little more dramatic than it actually was.

I was in Truth or Consequences, at Passion Pie Cafe, as I’d been so many times before. I was there primarily to drop off my submission for the Valentine’s Day Sacred Heart art contest, but I figured I’d also get some breakfast and use their free WiFi for a few hours while I got some writing done.

During past visits to T or C, I’ve spent hours at a time at Passion Pie. I’ve sat there from nearly open (7am) to nearly close (3pm). The workers have always been…if not friendly…gracious to me. Actually, the more often I came in, the friendlier the workers became, maybe because I started to seem like a regular, or maybe because I usually put a dollar in the tip jar. In any case, I’d been there before, hunkered down and using the WiFi for hours.

The coffee shop seemed different on this visit to town. Some of the furniture was different, bigger, maybe more comfortable, but with the effect of reducing the seating in a small room that already couldn’t accommodate everyone at the busiest times of the day. I’m not sure why the owners of a coffee shop would want to reduce seating, but that’s what seems to have happened.

The workers were different too. On the couple of times I’d already gone in since I’d returned to T or C, I hadn’t seen the woman who’d worked there five days a week during my past visits. She was the woman who was not exactly friendly (at least by my Southern standards), but was always gracious and kind to me. She always offered me a refill on my iced tea and never acted as if I were sitting at a table longer than my allotted time. Where had she gone? I don’t know, but the woman working the counter on the day in question was not her.

I dropped off my collage and filled out a form with my contact info. Then I ordered a breakfast croissant (no meat, and yes, please, do add tomatoes) and grabbed a scone from the day-old basket. My total came to almost $9. I pulled out my debit card, signed the screen with my fingertip. This, I think, is where I made my fatal mistake. I forgot to leave a tip.

I usually leave a tip. I’m superstitious about leaving tips, a holdover from my days as a guest house concierge when I was paid cash commissions on tours I sold. I have to keep that cash flowing, I came to believe. If I don’t share the cash I get, I won’t get any more cash, I came to believe. Maybe because I’d been out of the cash economy for a couple of years, I’d forgotten my own superstition. Maybe because I paid with a debit card, I’d simply spaced on the tip. Maybe it was the signing my name with my forefinger that threw me off. The bottom line, I realized later, is that I failed to leave a tip.

In my own defense, the service offered at Passion Pie is minimal. I ordered my food from the woman working the counter. She rang up my total and collected my payment. Then she took one step to the window into the kitchen and called out my order to the cook. When my food was done, the cook placed it on the counter and called out my name, at which time I walked over and picked it up. The woman at the counter didn’t offer me any extra or special service. She didn’t even carry a single item out to my table. Still, I probably should have left a dollar in the jar.

I picked a very small table with two chairs. My laptop barely fit on the table, but I didn’t want to take up room I wasn’t entitled to. Also, the battery on my laptop no longer holds a charge, so I must always be tethered to an electrical outlet. The table was near an outlet. I pulled out what I needed for my writing, plugged in my laptop, signed on to the internet. I balanced my breakfast on the edge of the table as I scarfed it down. Then I got to work.

The cafe was fairly busy as people came in for coffee and breakfast. Other tables filled up, and I decided if I saw another single person unable to find a place to sit, I would offer him or her my unoccupied chair. I glanced around and noticed the few outside tables were empty (to be fair, it was a chilly morning), and no one in the cafe was obviously without a seat. A couple of people were in line at the counter, but I had no idea if they wanted to linger in the shop or get their food and beverages to go.

That’s when the woman who’d taken my order left the counter and walked toward my table. I thought she was going to clean up the condiment area immediately to my left, but I realized she was there for me when she said, Excuse me…

I didn’t expect what came next. We have people waiting for tables…

She didn’t say, You have to leave! but her message was clear. She wanted me gone. She thought I had stayed too long.

I noticed there were no signs proclaiming a time limit on tables or a minimum purchase amount for people who wanted to linger. If there is any sort of official time limit or spending minimum, the information is kept super secret until the worker tells the offender that it’s time to go. At least if there were a sign, I could have made an informed decision about what I wanted to do. I’m confident I would not have bought an overpriced restaurant breakfast and chosen to sit at a tiny table if I had known I would be walking out of the place less than two hours later.

I didn’t know what to do other than to gather up my things and go. I suppose I could have argued with the worker, but that’s not my style. Maybe I should have offered her a bribe. In any case, I left. And I haven’t been back. And I don’t think I will go back.

But I did get a bit of a consolation prize. My collage won third place in the Passion Pie contest, and the owner of the place wrote me a check for $50.

This is my award-winning collage, Valentine for My Own Dear Heart. It won 3rd prize in the Passion Pie Sacred Heart contest.