Forgot to Pump

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It was early in my brief career as a clerk in a supermarket fuel center (aka gas station), and the day had started early. (I’d crawled out of bed at 4am and clocked in to work before 5:45.) The place had been busy since the sun came up, and my brain was already on overload when the woman stepped up to the kiosk window. I asked how I could help her, and she told me pump 6 was authorized to pump $60 worth of gas.

At first I thought she was reading the numbers above the pump’s communication screen. The very top number told how much money the previous customer had spent at the pump. The second number showed how many gallons of fuel the previous customer had pumped. Many, many customers thought the presence of those numbers meant there was a problem with the pump and they wouldn’t be able to get their fuel there. They didn’t realize that once a payment had been made to me in the kiosk or a card inserted at the pump and the fuel nozzle lifted, those numbers would zero out and the pumping could begin.

I assumed the woman had been looking at the very top number, the amount the previous customer had spent. (When you assume, my late father would have said, you make an ass of u and me.) I told her when she lifted the nozzle, the $60 would zero out and she could begin pumping.

She shook her head at me. When she got out of her car, the screen said $60. She didn’t put in $60. She was going to pay with her credit card, but she didn’t want to put her card in if someone else’s money was already on the pump.

Slowly it dawned on my poor tired brain that the woman wasn’t talking about the uppermost number on the pump. She was talking about the communication screen. The communication screen said that someone had paid $60 on pump 6.

I looked over at my POS (point-of-sale) system. The screen showed me the activity on every pump in the fuel center. I could tell who had prepaid by giving me cash or letting me run a credit or debit card. I could tell who had paid at the pump. I could see who was pumping gas and who had yet to start pumping. Sure enough, pump 6 had been authorized for $60.

You didn’t pay me $60? I asked the woman. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell if I had ever seen her before, much less if she had stood before me a few minutes ago and handed me $60. She shook her head no.

You didn’t already use your card on pump 6?  I asked her. I certainly didn’t want her coming back in five minutes telling me she had paid twice and wanting money back.

She shook her head no again. She repeated that she hadn’t put her card into the pump because she thought someone else had already paid $60 for that pump and she didn’t want to mess anything up.

I thanked her for being honest. It would have been so easy for her to simply put that $60 worth of gas in her tank. No one would have known…but her.

I’ll clear that out for you, I told her. I reached over and went through the procedure to refund the $60 on pump 6. I didn’t take any money out of the drawer because I didn’t know exactly what procedure to follow in such a situation. I figured I would come up with something before my shift was over.

When my screen showed pump 6 was available, I told the woman she was all set to go and thanked her again for her honesty.

The customers continued to line up and hand me money and credit cards. I authorized pumps and sold cigarettes and told people how many reward points they had. I’d forgotten about the $60 on pump 6 until a frantic-looking man stood before me.

I was here about half an hour ago, he told me. He was all but panting. I gave you $60 for pump 6, then went out there and put the nozzle in my truck. I thought it had pumped, but it didn’t pump, and I left without my gas.

I totally believed his story. He seemed genuinely upset and out of breath, and he knew what pump the money had been left on and how much money it was. I didn’t see how it could be a scam of some kind.

You’re really lucky, I told the guy. An honest woman told me about the $60 still on the pump. She could have just used the money, and I would have never known, but she told me about it. Then I told him to pull into whatever pump he wanted, then to let me know what pump he was on so I could authorize it for $60.

I don’t know if he realized how lucky he was. If that lady had used his $60 then he had come in later with some sob story about how he had forgotten to pump his gas, I would have thought, sure, right and sent him on his way. If he had insisted, I probably would have called a manager to handle the situation.

Who forgets to pump their gas? I wondered aloud when I related this story. Apparently it happens. It happened to this guy, and it happened to a friend of mine. She said she was flustered, had been getting repeated phone calls from a needy friend. She said she paid $20 for gas, got into her car, and drove away. When she realized what had happened she went back to the fuel center but found someone had already pumped her fuel. The person in the kiosk was not trusting and kind and told her she was out of luck; there was nothing he could do.

Moral of the story: If you forget to pump your gas, hope the person who rolls in after you is honest. 

Winter Emergency Kit (Guest Post)

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Winter isn’t over yet! That’s why when Gabrielle Gardiner approached me about sharing her article on preparing a winter emergency kit, I jumped at the chance. Below, Gabrielle tells you what you should have on hand to prepare for the worst should you get stranded in a winter wonderland.

Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

Life on the road is liberating and exciting, but it’s not always easy. There are countless unpredictable challenges you can face, especially in the winter. Road conditions tend to be more hazardous. Frigid temperatures can interfere with the battery and mechanics of your vehicle. You need to prepare for the worst to mitigate your anxiety about potential emergencies while traveling alone in freezing temps.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prepare for being stranded roadside in the winter. The first thing you can do is read The Survival Mom‘s article “How to Survive a Blizzard in your Vehicle.” Secondly, it’s wise to pack an emergency kit to protect yourself, if only to put your mind at ease. When you learn survival skills and feel ready for anything, even the most inconvenient or dismal scenarios won’t seem so bad. Naturally, you should still opt out of traveling during severe winter weather conditions to avoid low visibility, icy or impassable roads, and an increased risk of accidents.

Don’t know where to begin to pack your kit? Make it easy for yourself and use a checklist so you don’t forget any essentials. Try this awesome winter car emergency checklist that you can download and print here.

Photo provided by the author

Just like taking care of your mental wellbeing while living a nomadic lifestyle is important, it’s crucial to empower ourselves through preparedness. In the following sections, let’s outline some of the most important tips to keep in mind as you prepare yourself for a safe and enjoyable winter season on the road. Pack the items into a big duffel bag or storage container and leave it in your vehicle all winter long. 

Food & Water Essentials

Packing a hefty supply of non-perishable snacks can be a lifesaver. Your emergency kit could include favorites like jerky, granola bars, and trail mix. When you’re stuck roadside in a pretty isolated area, the last thing you want to deal with is feeling miserably hungry. Keep in mind that whichever snacks you choose, be sure they don’t freeze easily. You won’t be happy trying to consume something that’s rock solid frozen with little chances of defrosting. Of course, water is another essential item to keep in your car kit. Again, to prevent it from freezing and being undrinkable, keep the water in a soft-sided insulated container and wrap that container in an emergency thermal blanket.

Snow Tools & Safety Items

If you don’t already have an arsenal of snow tools, you’ll want to invest in some for your kit. Buy a collapsible snow shovel so you’re always ready to dig your tires out of the snow, or in more serious circumstances, uncover your snow-engulfed car so it is visible to rescuers. Reflective triangles could help you become more visible, too. Plus, you’ll need ice scrapers to keep your windshield clear. A supply of basic tools in a toolbox could also come in handy.

Photo by amir shamsipur on Unsplash

When it comes to safety and staying warm, include an emergency thermal blanket as well as plenty of extra socks, gloves, and winter clothing layers in your kit. If your battery dies and you have to go without heat, you’ll be thankful you have the attire and protection to stay alive. You also can’t forget a flashlight, batteries, and matches for situations when you don’t have light or heat. Be prepared to treat your own minor injuries if necessary, and keep a first aid kit on hand as well.

Miscellaneous

One of the best ways to feel self-sufficient and empowered is to know how to jump your own vehicle. Otherwise, you have to rely on the kindness of strangers helping you out, or you’ll have to get a tow truck involved. If you’ve never jumped a car, you can learn how to do it. It’s not nearly as intimidating or complicated as it might seem. Take a look at the steps on how to do it here. Also, be sure to invest in some jumper cables before you hit the road.

Other key additions to your winter emergency kit: portable cell phone power banks, an emergency contact sheet (because no one memorizes phone numbers anymore), and kitty litter (even if you don’t have a cat.) Kitty litter might seem surprising, but it’s great for tires trying to gain traction in the snow. Or, you could also use sand, road salt, or snow mats to get unstuck.

To Recap:

Don’t forget to include the following in your winter emergency kit:

  • Water 
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Snow shovel & ice scraper
  • Flashlight & batteries
  • Matches
  • Emergency thermal blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Toolbox
  • Reflective triangles
  • Phone charger
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitty litter

Living nomadically is incredible, but it can be a nerve-racking and unpredictable experience sometimes. You owe it to yourself to be prepared for anything. Hopefully, this guide to putting together a winter emergency kit can help you out this season.

Gabrielle Gardiner is a digital content creator who is passionate about developing helpful and compelling stories. She calls Manhattan home but loves escaping the big city to experience nature as often as possible. 

Art at Meow Wolf

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This is what the outside of Meow Wolf looks like. Even the exterior of the building is art.

I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.

What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.

Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.

The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.

But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?

Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.

Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.

When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.

I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.

Art-o-mat at Meow Wolf

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This is one of the postcards I bought in the Meow Wolf gift shop.

After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)

Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.

The Art-o-mat® in the Meow Wolf lobby. Isn’t it lovely? I think the color scheme is fantastic! And that sugar skull…swoon!

I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.

What exactly is an Art-o-mat®, you may ask? According to the Art-o-mat® website,

Art-o-mat® machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country.

The site’s About page says,

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…

AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…

My fortune as given to me by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda.

Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.

Alva the soothsayer from Portals Bermuda

The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.

Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.

The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.

On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.

I narrowed my random art choices down to these two.

Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.

The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.

The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:

The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.

Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.

This is the art I received when I took a chance.

I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?

This is the artist’s signature on the side of the little art piece. I took a chance on you, Jack. Thanks for this beauty.

You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.

I took the photos in this post.

Memories of the RTR 2020 (Guest Post)

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As I said in last week’s report on the RTR, I attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in 2015201620172018, and (very briefly) in 2019. Every year I was there, I met new people and leaned new things and was glad to have gone. Every year I posted a report of my experiences at the gathering. Unfortunately, in 2020 health and financial concerns kept me from attending the RTR.

I wanted my readers to know what had happened at this year’s RTR so I asked in a few van groups I’m in on Facebook if anyone would like to write a report about their experiences at the 2020 RTR. This is the second of two reports submitted.

Today’s report is by Heinrich Keifer. I’m very grateful for his willingness to share the following perspective on this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

In 2018, on a visit to Quartzsite, AZ I first heard a whisper about the RTR. I thought what is that? I asked a fellow in town, what was that and where it was located, he said way back in the desert up a long dirt road. I had visions of a strange group of folks who assembled annually to tell long tales of adventures of life in the wild. That year, I did not make the effort to find my way to attend. Maybe, inside I had a fear of this new group of desert people.

In 2019, I came upon a youtube video about the upcoming RTR. I became fascinated with the thought of camping out in Quartzsite and attending this event to share and learn about life in the wild and off the grid. I knew that I had to share in the event and made plans to attend my first RTR.

I arrived as early as possible on the first day that group camping would be allowed on the new land designated by the BLM for this purpose. The planners had announced efforts to have more restrooms and even a dumpster to aid in the camping for all to enjoy. Bob Wells said that he would be underwriting the cost associated with these amenities, but still wished to keep the RTR free for all to enjoy. I found a great camping spot for my trailer and as it turned out I was right next to the Art Camp. I met several very interesting folks in the Art Camp and enjoyed the camp’s morning fire on several occasions. I was also able to lend a hand with a new solar panel kit build for one of the Art Camp folks.

On a walk I met a fellow who was deep into solar technology and he spoke of various solar related issues that helped me understand more fully how to get the most benefit from my 100-watt roof mounted system. Presented, at the main stage, were many fine topics on camping off the grid, everything from safety, minimalism, border parks and safety along the border, solar cooking, battery management, stealth camping and more. I enjoyed the exhibit area which featured mostly car conversions. Also, a big hit for me was the evening talent show. I just missed the closing ceremonial van burning, but I did get to sign the van in the days before the closing. I managed also to volunteer to help folks get in and out of the RTR grounds via narrow dirt roads and do some clean up and break down of equipment. My experience convinced me that the 2020 RTR would be a must-attend event.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 RTR I searched the area around the La Paz County Fairgrounds for dispersed camping. I saw Facebook posts on available State Trust land and thought that there must be space somewhere closer than the 19 miles to Plomosa Road BLM camping. Many folks had the same idea to find a closer place to camp. After much discussion, some for and some against closer camping, I took a trip to the area and drove off road to get a better picture of what could be used and where it was. I made calls to the Parker Police and the La Paz County Sheriff, but no one could say for sure if the land would accommodate camping. I returned home to Los Angeles and continued to suggest to anyone who would listen that I thought there was camping, but it required 4-wheel access only, maybe some could make it in in a 2-wheel vehicle. Time passed and the discussion continued in Facebook and Rvillage.

Finally the event came, I spent the first night in Scaddan Wash, then off to the Fairgrounds to drop off my wife, Peggy, at the Women’s RTR (WRTR). I proceeded up Hillside Road to the end, and as I reached the dirt road I switched on 4-wheel drive to enter the semi-wash road. I traveled over some mild mounds, through a rather sandy wash bottom, and up to a slight plateau. I was set for the week, I thought. The night was quiet and the next day we rose to have coffee and breakfast, then it was off to the WRTR for Peggy. I remained at camp in and around the 5th wheel trailer and relaxed.

All was going as planned until a white pick-up crossed the nearby desert and then stopped about 200 feet from my rig. I had a bad feeling and when I saw two law enforcement officers exit the pick-up truck, I knew to expect a visit. I exited my rig and walked slowly toward them carefully keeping my hands where they could be seen; after all, I am from Los Angeles. I was welcomed and asked if I knew that I was within the Parker city limits and that there was no-camping with the city limits? I told them that I spoke with the Parker Police, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department, and State Land Trust office in Phoenix and all agreed that this area should be fine to camp in. I also pulled out my Stage Trust permit along with a map showing the assumed boundaries of the Trust Land. Well, I was told that the city ordinance would overrule the State Trust permit and that I needed to comply. I told them that I was happy to comply and did not want to create any trouble for the event or the city.

I was the only person to attempt to camp in that area; however I understand that another camper made a camp along another road and was also asked to leave. The RTR did announce that someone had been cited for camping, in a “no-camping area”, but did not say who. I did settle in for 6 days at another BLM area along Parker Dam Road which worked out well and had good access to shopping, Blue Water Casino, and several restaurants.

My attendance at the RTR proved to be satisfying and worthwhile. Peggy enjoyed her two-day participation in the WRTR. I managed to do some volunteer work which was fun, and I met many different RVers and van dwellers who had interesting stories and visions for their future, as perhaps full time RVers.

Since I was a volunteer who agreed to provide over 16 or 20 hours of service, I was entitled to free dry camping at the venue, which I though could be expanded next year. By lowering the required number of hours, there could be more campers on-site and this would help to increase attendees to the workshops.

I also suggested that a shuttle transportation be planned for next year. I was told that the organizing of a bus would constitute a violation of the BLM rules, but that I could work on it on my own. I agreed that I would see what could be done outside of the official RTR management circle.

I know that I benefited from my attendance and would encourage others to think about attending in the future. Hope to see you down the road, and at the next RTR.

In 2014 Heinrich Keifer decided to restore an old 1980s 5th wheel trailer; after a few weekend trips he attended a national Good Sam rally. After years of boating and boat camping he started to get a good feeling about RV living. In late 2015 he picked up a new Jayco 5th wheel and has been increasing his RV education at numerous RV events, through magazines, and from YouTube and Facebook posts. Recently he attended his second RTR and was involved in posting tips to help locate camping.   

Photos provided by Blaize Sun.

Meow Wolf: A Review

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Why is the Meow Wolf sign shaped like a bowling pin? Keep reading to find out.

The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.

Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.

I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.

According to the Meow Wolf “About” page,

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.

One painting inside Meow Wolf. It reminds me of art by my favorite surrealist artist, Remedios Varo. That bird does not look happy to be held by that orange and yellow avocado with arms.

The aforementioned webpage says,

Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!

Our first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin.

Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.

Is this a Meow Wolf?

While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.

At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”

There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.

The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.

The Man is trying to decide if he wants to walk through that door.

Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.

An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:

[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.

Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.

So many pretty lights…and music too.

If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says

[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.

Looks like somebody puked up filthy lucre and glitter.

Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.

If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.

While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.

I don’t know who these little creatures are, but I love them.

I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.

If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)

There’s a wrinkle in the reality of the bathroom floor.

You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.

A fantasy world awaits you when you step through the refrigerator portal.

Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.

There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF? Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.

When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)

The Man took this photo of me photographing a tiny portal in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.

I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.

Little Free Library at SOMOS in Taos, NM

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The storefront of SOMOS, the Literary Society of Taos. Can you spot the Little Free Library in this photo?

In the fall of 2019, I found myself in Taos, NM. I tried to park in a parking lot, but my vehicle was just too big for the tiny spaces. I made the block and found a parking spot in front of SOMOS. It was a metered parking space, but I wasn’t going to be long, so I fished a few coins from my pocket to drop in the slot.

SOMOS bills itself as “a place for words in Taos, New Mexico.” The letters in the acronym stand for the “Society of the Muse of the Southwest.” The History section of the group’s About page explains,

…literature has played a prominent role in the area’s rich cultural landscape. As the literary arts flourished, the need for formal community support became apparent, which ultimately led to the nonprofit incorporation of SOMOS…in 1983.

Since then, we have expanded into our present role as a respected literary resource center whose outreach extends to the greater community of Northern New Mexico— and beyond. Our live readings, workshops, conferences, and festivals not only showcase accomplished writers but also encourage creativity in novice writers from all walks of life.

The group’s aforementioned About page says,

[o]ur space has a large room that doubles as a book store and a salon for literary gatherings, two separate classrooms, a ten-space parking lot in back, and lots of on-street parking out front.

I’d never been inside SOMOS, and unfortunately that day I didn’t have time to stop in. My plan was to hop out of my vehicle, drop a few coins in the meter, run my errand, and be on my way. Imagine my delight when, upon stepping toward the parking meter, I saw a Little Free Library in front of the SOMOS building. I certainly had to take a few moments to check out the little library and take a few photos for documentation.

If you haven’t read my past posts about Little Free Libraries (LFLs) I’ve visited in Los Gatos, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Phoenix, AZ; Mesa, AZ; and even others in Taos, NM, you may not know anything about these manifestations of gift economy.

The Little Free Library organization calls itself the “world’s largest book-sharing movement!” The group’s website says the “Little Free Library Sharing Network [is] 90,000 Little Free Libraries strong!”

Side view of the Little Free Library in front of SOMOS.

On the group’s Who We Are webpage, we learn

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

Through Little Free Library book exchanges, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Not everyone believes all of the above assertions to be true. In the 2017 article “Against Little Free Libraries,” author Kriston Capps outlines the case Canadian librarians made against the Little Free Library organization in an article for the Journal of Radical Librarianship. The main critiques are that registered Little Free Libraries

predominantly appear in medium-to-high-income neighborhoods,..are distributed almost exclusively in neighborhoods where 25 percent or more residents have university degrees, [and]…sprout where public library branches are plentiful and where neighborhoods are white.

In reality, these librarian researchers only studied two Canadian cities, Toronto and Calgary.

“Despite the fact that we’ve just done a case study of two Canadian cities that are probably not entirely representative of the locations of Little Free Libraries across the world, they did raise and confirm our suspicions toward the organization,” Hale [one of the librarian researchers] says.

View of the other side of the Little Free Library outside of SOMOS

While I know many Little Free Libraries are located in front of residences, several of the ones I have encountered were in totally public areas. In Taos County, I’ve visited registered Little Free Libraries in front of a medical center, the town recreation center, and the community well in a rural area. In Phoenix, I saw a Little Free Library on Grand Avenue in an artsy, commercial district.

Another book-sharing option is what I call “renegade” Little Free Libraries. The sharing box I discovered in the Santa Fe dog park was labeled “free little library,” not “Little Free Library” and did not have a charter number. While the library in the Mesa, AZ pocket park was labeled “Little Free Library,” it did not seem to be registered with the Little Free Library organization. What I at first thought was a registered LFL in Heritage Square in Flagstaff, AZ sported a sign calling it a “Little Library” and did not have a charter number.

In the October 2019 Publisher’s Weekly article “Little Free Library, Founder’s Family Clash Over Organization’s Direction” author Claire Kirch reports the Little Free Library

organization filed three separate applications for new trademarks with the U.S. Patent Office regarding the term, ‘Little Free Library,’ used in connection with the words, ‘wooden boxes with a storage area for books,’ and ‘signs, non-luminous and non-mechanical, of metal,’ and ‘guest books and rubber stamps.’

The article goes on to share the point of view of Greig Metzger, the executive director of the Little Free Library organization.

Metzger explains that LFL works with like-minded nonprofits all over the world to advance literacy, and that it provides support for those who want to ‘go their own way” and not register their box with LFL, even providing instructions for those who want to construct their own book boxes rather than purchase them from the organization.

But, he adds, LFL does not condone for-profit businesses…making money off of the concept by selling products using the LFL trademark.

In any case, the Little Free Library outside of SOMOS has no reason to worry because it is registered with charter number 42532. It’s decorated with ravens, a bird seen often in Northern New Mexico, and the flowers and mountains of the region. I love its bright colors.

I didn’t take any books from this library, and unfortunately, I didn’t have any books with me to contribute. I’m glad to know there is another Little Free Library option, this one in the heart of the town of Taos.

I took the photos in this post.

Is The RTR Dead? (Guest Post)

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I attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and (very briefly) in 2019. Every year I was there, I met new people and leaned new things and was glad to have gone. Every year I posted a report of my experiences at the gathering. Unfortunately, in 2020 health and financial concerns kept me from attending the RTR.

I wanted my readers to know what had happened at this year’s RTR so I asked in a few van groups I’m in on Facebook if anyone would like to write a report about their experiences at the 2020 RTR. I got a couple of volunteers, and I’ll be sharing their guest posts in the upcoming weeks.

Today’s report is by Mary Ellen Telesha. I’m very grateful for her willingness to share the following perspective on this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

Is the RTR dead?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this come up on social media before, during, and after this remarkable nomadic event.

I’m here to reassure you, it’s not.

What is the RTR you ask? 

Click here, for detailed information, but here’s the short version–RTR stands for Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual 10 day gathering of nomads out in the Arizona desert, founded by Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living.

The RTR, preceded by the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (WRTR), just wrapped up its 10th annual gathering in January 2020 under balmy and beautiful Arizona skies.

In previous years the RTR/WRTRs were held out in the vast Sonoran desert, where we gathered to create an enormous temporary community. The estimate of attendees for 2019 was upwards of 10,000 participants, with free onsite camping spreading out for miles around the central presentation area. This huge number speaks to the growing phenomenon of nomadic living, and the success of the community Bob Wells has worked so hard to create.

Unfortunately, this year’s RTR was a drastic deviation from the RTRs of the past. The Bureau of Land Management, the governmental agency that manages public land out West, refused to allow another massive RTR event without a significant monetary commitment, no doubt following the precedent of Burning Man, an enormous gathering in the Nevada Desert (not related to the RTR).

In his wrap-up video of the 2020 RTR, Bob shared with his viewers that the BLM was asking anywhere from $100,000 to $600,000 to hold the event on public land this year. As he is devoted to keeping the event free, Bob was forced to come up with an alternative plan.

So, the RTR was moved to the La Paz County Fairgrounds just outside of Parker Arizona, where all of the seminars took place. As there was no camping allowed on the Fairgrounds, (except for staff and  full-time volunteers), the droves of nomads pouring into the area for the RTR spread out to camp in the surrounding Quartzsite, Parker, and California BLM areas. 

Of course, this change became a perfect opportunity for the usual naysayers to announce that the RTR is dead.

Now, I’m not a nomad newbie.

This year was my 3rd WRTR, and my second RTR.

I’ll be on the road full-time for 3 years this spring, and I’ve pretty much got my routine down.That’s not to say I’m done learning, but I don’t attend the RTR just for the education.

The nomadic lifestyle is intriguing, attracting a unique variety of humans from all walks of life. We come in cars, tents, vans, trucks, and RVs. We nomads are as varied as our rigs, yet when we get together we’re bound by the common experience of life on the road, and the stories that got us there.

I’m especially inspired every year by women who face their fears, throw their belongings into a vehicle, and drive thousands of miles for the first time, often solo, to learn and meet their fellow nomads.

Every interaction at the WRTR and RTR either inspired or educated me in some way, like the woman giving out little emergency whistles to everyone who crossed her path. What a perfect way to start conversations about safety and awareness on the road!

I was a volunteer this year, working behind the scenes as an assistant to the scheduling committee, and I’ll tell you what, the way the WRTR/RTR event came together out of hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and formidable chaos, was nothing short of amazing. 

I was also a volunteer at the “Information and Sticker Booth” on the first day of the WRTR. The energy was high, with old-timers and newbies alike thrilled to have finally made it!

Even with the added driving this year to get to the seminars at the Fairgrounds, I made it to quite a few presentations. 

One of my favorites was Mary Shafer’s severe weather presentation, (find her at WildHeartWanders.com). She taught us how to predict where a tornado is headed (hint: if it looks like it’s not moving but just getting bigger it’s headed right for you) and how to identify specific cloud formations that might impact travel. She also taught a jam-packed hour on weather apps for your phone.

I experienced Gong meditation for my third year with Harmonic Immersion – A Meditation and Sound Experience, by Gong Gypsy Michelle Angel of the Gong Temple.

One of the most moving presentations on the main stage was a discussion of depression and anxiety on the road, with a very personal sharing by Bob Wells and Joanne Shortell of the NomadChapter.org.

There was a panel discussion “Allies For Safety,” which covered the importance of nomads having each other’s backs, specifically addressing how men can be allies for women in the nomadic lifestyle.

I totally enjoyed the seminar “One Pot Cooking, No Junk” by Dr. Dorothy Adamiak ND and her husband Andy, and I’ll be buying their cookbook, 69 Pleasures, for healthy and easy-to-cook meals on the road. Healthy Ricotta cheese sauce? Oh yes!

There was even a talent show!

Although there are too many too list here, there were hundreds of free seminars, including solar experts, budgeting, making money on the road, internet service, workcamping, stealth camping, vehicle maintenance, pets on the road, and even aura reading. The seminars on the main stage were recorded, and will eventually be shared with the public on Bob Well’s Youtube channel 

So when the naysayers start throwing the BS, which they always do, I know they just don’t get it. Before the gates to the Fairgrounds were even closed I saw complaints on Youtube and other social medial outlets — about incompetent, bossy volunteers; that the RTR was dead; and all the usual BS about Bob Wells ripping us off. How anyone can believe that is beyond me. This is the first year he and his co-founder Suanne Carlson haven’t had to take money out of their own pockets to cover costs.

It’s been said that it’s easier to criticize than to organize.

Amen to that.

Mary Ellen Telesha is a nomad and author, currently traveling around the U.S. in a simply converted Chevy Uplander mini-van. She’s also a Martha Beck Life Coach, and a Reiki Master who has written two books, Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age, and the second with a more humorous take, Top Ten Lists For Nomads: The (Mostly) Lighter Side Of Nomadic Life. For more of her journey, find her at Cosmic Gypsy Nomad Life on Facebook and Instagram. 

Photos were provided by the author.


What Do I Use?

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Many of the people I encountered when I worked at the fuel center seemed barely capable of taking care of themselves. Some people were old and feeble of mind, body, or both.

One elderly gentleman–the skinniest person I think I’ve ever seen–asked for $20 on pump 9. When I pulled the drawer into the kiosk, I found a $50 bill. The gentleman was already walking toward his vehicle. Luckily, he moved really slowly.

Sir, your change, I called through the intercom system.

He tried to wave me off. I think he didn’t know what I was saying. Maybe he didn’t hear very well.

Sir! I called with more force. You gave me fifty dollars!

He seemed to hear that and came back for his $30.

Weeks later, and elderly woman paid for her fuel at the kiosk, then walked ever so slowly to pump 4 where she’d left her car. Many minutes later, I saw her standing by her car. She wasn’t pumping gas, and my POS (point-of-sale) system showed pump 4 was still authorized for the full amount she’d paid. I was mystified, so I went outside to find out if she needed assistance.

When I asked her if she needed my help, she said she couldn’t get the car’s gas cap off. It wasn’t a locking gas cap, but I when I tried to get it off for her, I found it had to be pushed in and turned at the same time. The woman simply didn’t have the strength to push and turn all at once.

Photography of One US Dollar Banknotes

It wasn’t only elderly people who made me wonder how they were getting along in the world. Once a woman who looked to be in her 30s came up to the kiosk. She asked me for $58 on pump 4 and put a wad of bills in the drawer. When I counted the money, I only came up with $47. I counted the bills again and got the same result.

Ma’am there’s only $47 here, I told her through the intercom.

She looked at me blankly. I held the bills up the window and showed her each one as I counted. There was only $47 there. The customer didn’t argue with me, just accepted her mistake, then went off to pump her fuel.

Before long, the young woman was back for her change.

The POS system did all the work of figuring out change for me. I’d tell the computer how much money a customer gave me. The customer could then pump the equivalent in fuel into their tank. If the customer didn’t pump as much gas as they’d paid for, the POS system prompted me to refund the difference. The compuer never made a mistake.

When the young woman came back for her change, my screen told me just how much money to hand back. I told her the amount of her change and put the money into the drawer, which I slid out to her. She picked up the money, but said the amount was wrong. I realized right away that she was expecting the change from the amount she originally thought she was giving to me.

No ma’am, I said to her. You didn’t give me $58, remember? You only gave me $47. See, it says $47 on your receipt.

Oh, right, she agreed and went on her way.

I never felt as if she were trying to hustle or scam me. I think she was genuinely confused.

The person I felt most worried for was the elderly lady who didn’t know what kind of fuel to put in her car.

She’d pulled in while I was outside conditioning drinks in one of the coolers. She’d stopped at a pump that offered gasoline and flex fuel. I think it was the flex fuel that confused her.

She got out of her car, but I honestly wasn’t paying any attention to her. I

Assorted-color Soda Cans

was busy sorting out the dozen different sizes and varieties of Red Bull.

Suddenly I hard a voice yelling from across the fuel center. What gas do I use? What gas do I use?

I looked up. Was the lady yelling at me? She was staring at me, so I was pretty sure she was addressing me.

What’s that? I asked, confused. I couldn’t believe she aw actually asking me what fuel she should use in her vehicle. How would I know what fuel she should use?

What gas do I use? she asked again. Yep, she wanted me to tell her what fuel to put in her car.

Ma’am, I don’t know, I told her, truly perplexed. How in the world did she think I’d know what fuel went into her car.

I don’t know what to put in, she said, sounding increasingly panicked.

Do you usually use diesel or gasoline or flex fuel? I asked.

I don’t know, she wailed.

Well, the black handle on that pump is for gasoline and the yellow handle is for flex fuel, I explained. Which color do you usually use? I asked her.

She maintained that she didn’t know.

The last thing I wanted to do was tell some senior citizen to put the wrong type of fuel into her car, leading to damage she’d then want the company I worked for or (heaven forbid!) me to pay for. I didn’t recall being told in my training that I was responsible for knowing what fuel individual customers used.

Ma’am, I don’t know either, I told her. I honestly didn’t know how to help the woman.

What kind of fuel do you usually put in? I asked again, hoping to jog her memory.

Ethanol! I usually use ethanol! she screeched.

That didn’t tell me much. Maybe it told me she didn’t use diesel. Didn’t all gasoline have ethanol in it these days?

I don’t know, ma’am, I said apologetically and went back to sorting energy drinks.

I heard a friendly young woman who’d been pumping her own gas nearby talking to the older lady. I don’t know which one approached the other, but I heard the older lady explaining her situation. The young woman lifted the black handle for gasoline on the pump nearest the elderly lady’s car and told her this was the one she needed. I hoped she was right, but if she wasn’t… well, better her mistake than mine (at least from my perspective).

The two of them had trouble getting the elderly woman’s debit card to work, so I ended up going over to help, which was fine. I didn’t mind helping, but I certainly wasn’t going to make a fuel decision for a stranger.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photography-of-one-us-dollar-banknotes-545064/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/drinks-supermarket-cans-beverage-3008/.

What Do You Mean?

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The elderly woman looked very sweet when she walked up to the fuel center kiosk where I was working. She was certainly old enough to be somebody’s grandma. Her hair was totally white and longish and curly. She wore eyeglasses and conservative clothes.

She had some questions about her reward points. She thought she’d get 20 cents off each gallon of gas she purchased, but she wasn’t sure.

I scanned her rewards card and pulled up the loyalty balances screen on my POS (point-of-sale) system. I showed her she’d already earned a 10-cents-off-per-gallon reward this month, and she still had a 10-cents-off-per-gallon reward from last month.

So I get 20 cents off per gallon? she asked.

Well, no. I explained she could use one 10-cents-off-per-gallon reward now and use the other 10-cents-off-per-gallon reward later. That wasn’t good enough for this customer. She wanted 20 cents off of each gallon of gas she bought today.

I explained to her that the rewards program didn’t work that way. The points don’t combine, I told her.

She was angry by then, even though I was working hard to remain calm and polite and even friendly.

What do you mean they don’t combine? she demanded.

Well, they don’t combine, I said again. I knew I was repeating myself, but I wasn’t quite sure what other words to use to explain the concept of “don’t combine.”

What do you mean they don’t combine? she demanded again. She was growing increasingly agitated.

I tried again to explain, this time using different words. I told her she could get 10 cents off each gallon of fuel she bought today and she could get 10 cents off per gallon of fuel she bought on another day, but she couldn’t get 20 cents off per gallon today by putting her rewards together.

She was still angry, and I could tell she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t give her 20 cents off each gallon of gas she purchased. Obviously 10 + 10 = 20.

I refrained from telling her I didn’t make the rules around there. I refrained from telling her that the corporate office decided how to run the reward program with no input from me. I refrained from telling her that if there were some way—any way—to combine her rewards I would have done it in a heartbeat in order to end our interaction. I simply remained calm, polite, and firm that it was impossible to combine her rewards as she wanted to do.

She finally stepped away from the kiosk and went over to pump 8 to fill her tank and probably complain about me and my arbitrary rules.