The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: Week 1

Standard
Rubber Tramp
A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.

(from Urban Dictionary)

Rendezvous
a place appointed for assembling or meeting

(from Merriam-Webster)

The 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was held at Scaddan Wash, a short-term camping area about five miles north of Quartzsite, Arizona  on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in the Sonoran Desert. It’s free to camp there. There are no campsites, so folks can camp wherever they like. There are also no amenities in Scaddan Wash. There are no toilets (pit, flush, or otherwise), no showers, no drinking water, no running water of any kind, no trash cans, and no trash pick up. In Scaddan Wash, it’s just wide open sky, rocky ground, scrubby plants, and a scattering of tall cacti.

 Although there were no features of civilization in the camping area, there were reminders that we were not so far from civilization after all. At night, in the distance, we could see the lights of Quarzsite twinkling. (The year-round population of Quartzsite is 3,600, but that number swells between January and March as snowbirds-and vendors trying to make a buck off the snowbirds-move in.) We could also hear the traffic on I-10, which was only about a mile and a half away. At first the motor noise was annoying, but after I told myself it sounded like the ocean, it wasn’t so bad.

While there’s no charge to camp at Scaddan Wash, campers do have to get a permit from the camp host. The length of stay is limited to 14 days in a 28 day period. (Learn more about camping at Scaddan Wash.)

I pulled into the RTR camping area in the late afternoon. I didn’t know anyone there, and I didn’t know where anything was. Where should I park? I had no idea.

I saw a spot with room for my van with shade provided by a palo verde tree. Shade is a hot (or should I say cool?) commodity in the desert, so I figured it was a good spot to choose.

I made sure I left plenty of space between me and the camp next to mine. As I parked, the woman in the next camp waved, so after turning off the van, I strode over to say hello. That’s how I met the Divine Miss M. Well, no it wasn’t Bette Midler, but a woman just as cool and funny. (I never did find out if she could sing.) Miss M and I hit it off immediately. She was friendly and welcoming and no-nonsense and interesting. It was her first RTR too, and we quickly became buddies.

The next day, the Welcome Seminar was at 10am. The highlight was finally meeting Mr. B, author and webmaster, the driving force behind the RTR. Mr. B talked about the upcoming schedule, permits, and campfires, as well as things we might want to know about goods and services available in Quartzsite. Others chimed in with tales of free pancakes and free showers, as well as scratch and dent grocery outlets.

During the welcome seminar, Mr. B announced that women’s meetings would be held both Sundays of the gathering. He said the meetings needed a facilitator and asked for a volunteer. No one offered to do it. I knew I had the skills to facilitate the women’s meeting, so later in the day, I approached Mr. B and said I would do it. He seemed pleased to have one less thing to worry about.

After the seminar, we were free for the day. That was the end of the structured activities.

Later that night, there was a community campfire. With the idea of being social, I hauled my chair over to the campfire and sat down. No one said hello or asked my name. I didn’t ask their names either. I couldn’t even see people’s faces. Turns out, campfires are not actually great places to meet people. There was a whole lot of dude going on at this one too. Although there were women enjoying the fire, all the talking was being done by guys. The entire time I sat there, I wondered how soon I could leave without looking totally awkward. Finally, I was able to escape. Although there were community campfires every night, I did not return.

The next day’s seminar was about going to Algodones, Mexico for dental work, prescriptions, and eye glasses. I wasn’t planning on doing any of those things, but thought it couldn’t hurt to sit through the presentations. It doesn’t seem very difficult for American to get their needs met in Algodones. There’s a casino on the U.S. side of the border where people park so they can simply walk into Mexico. The pharmacies and dental and optical offices in Algodones catering to Americans are in one small district right over the border. It is easy to find English speakers there. If I had a passport, I would have seriously considered going to Algodones for my recent dental work.

The other big event of the day was that a woman was cutting hair for donations. I really needed a haircut and had been planning to get one before the Rendezvous, but ran out of time. I walked over to her camp to find that several people were already waiting. I put my name on the list, then sat on the rocks reading my book. While sitting there, N. struck up a conversation with me, leading to a nice friendship.

The haircut turned out great. However, no matter what I do, I can’t get my hair to curl. I wonder if the desert has simply sucked all of the curl out of me, or if I’ve had some hormonal change that’s done away with my curl. I guess I won’t know if I don’t ever leave the desert.

On Friday, the morning seminar was about gadgets, but I skipped it to go into town.

On Saturday morning, the seminar was about solar power. I attended it, although I had (and have) no plans to hook up solar power in my van. I need four new tires before I can even think about spending money on solar power. A lot of the information presented was over my head, but the seeds of solar power knowledge have been planted.

That afternoon was the first of three group meals, a chili dinner. Here’s what the Cheap RV Living website said about the chili dinner:

The chili…dinner [is] a group effort. Everybody needs to bring a can of chili… to contribute to the pot before noon… That doesn’t sound good, but it always turns out great! We also welcome fresh, diced vegetables and cooked (or canned) meat. Cans of tomato products also work well. If you bring a vegetable, it needs to be cleaned and diced, or meat (like hamburger) it need [sic] to be cooked and ready to [sic] into the pot. We won’t have time to dice or cook those when we make the chili or soup.

There was a Cook among us, and he took responsibility for the chile dinner. I did not participate in the cooking, but I did participate in the eating. The cooks (under the supervision of The Cook) made a vegetarian chili, a turkey chili, a hot, and a medium beef chili. I had the vegetarian chili and it was delicious! Other folks brought corn bread, which made the whole meal even better.

The group meal was a really good place to socialize. It was easy to strike up a conversation about the food. I enjoyed getting to know people while eating together.

The morning seminar for the next day was described on the schedule as “Tin Can Seminar (Questions and Answers.)” Mr. B described it as an opportunity to ask questions about anything and everything. It was moderated by a (male) poet who seemed very pleased with himself. I had asked a question about how to make sure my battery didn’t die if I were parked in a remote location for several days, and he skipped right over it! I saw him. I recognized the paper my question was written on, and I saw him read the question and discard the paper. Instead, he read aloud questions such as “Do women like men with long hair?” and “Can people tell what kind of sexual activity is happening inside by the way a van is moving?” Mr. B had told us that the answers would represent “community wisdom,” but folks just sort of shouted out whatever they wanted to say in response to each question. This seminar was a complete waste of my time, and if I attend the RTR again, I will NOT sit through such malarkey.

On Sunday afternoon, we had the women’s meeting.

The Monday morning seminar was on cooking methods for rubber tramps, but I skipped it and went to town that day.

Most of the seminars I was really interested in happened at the end of the second week of the RTR, so I spent the first week hanging out, meeting people, writing postcards to friends, and making hats from yarn. I tried to take a walk every evening as the sun was setting.

On the first evening that I took a walk, I strolled all the way to the end of the line of rigs. There before me was a really cool old motor home. The folks who own it are pretty cool too. After a few minutes of chatting, Ms. Dee asked me if I wanted to see the inside of her home. I really did, but would have never said so if she hadn’t offered. “I thought you’d never ask!” I squealed.

It was awesome to be around people who were so open, who wanted to share their knowledge and let me take a peek into their lives.

The sun was usually down by the time I finished my walks. It was dark out there by 6:30 or so, and I was ready to go to bed by 8pm. I’d try to stay awake reading or making hats until at least 9pm, but some nights I was asleep at eight o’clock. Early to bed often does mean early to rise, even if it was still nighttime dark outside. I sometimes was wide awake by 5:30am, although the sun didn’t make it over the mountain until after seven o’clock.

I think it was the first week we got some on and off drizzle. Once the drizzle moved through, the weather was simply lovely, sunny, but not too hot. Days warmed up nicely and nights were chilly, but I was never cold when I was trying to sleep. It seemed like I was in a constant state of adding or subtracting a layer during the days.

At the end of the first week, I was really glad to be rendezvousing with the other rubber tramps.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

25 Responses »

  1. Blaize, you had me at:
    “I wondered how soon I could leave without looking totally awkward.” I always try to plan my exits.

    I am enjoying your thoughts as I sit here and laugh at the Tin Can Seminar observations. I knew it! I knew it! I knew those questions were rigged and no one ever believed me. Ha.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Nelda and Maggie. RTR Part 2 is turning out to be more difficult to write.

    Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s report on the first women’s meeting of the 2015 RTR.

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