Monthly Archives: June 2016

Little Girls in the Restroom


On Sunday, I worked in the parking lot until 3pm, then headed back to my campground.

I thought I would find the campground empty. I didn’t have any reservations and Sundays don’t tend to be busy with people without reservations looking for a place to stay.

Instead, when I got to the campground, I found several cars parked on several sites. Most of the activity seemed to be concentrated on site #7, where eight or ten people were standing around.

Of course, they watched me with great interest as I drove past them to get to my site. I could see them looking in my direction. Their interest increased as I attempted to back into my site.

In the grand scheme of my life, I haven’t been driving for very many years. I never received much instruction in backing up. I really only learned to back up last summer by backing into this very same spot everyday after working in the parking lot. My backing abilities are still hit or miss, especially when I have such an attentive audience. Luckily, I missed hitting anything (the logs at the front of my site, the water tank, the picnic table, the fire ring), but I did a lot of backing up-pulling forward, backing in-pulling forward before I had the van where I wanted it.

Upon exiting the van, I grabbed my clipboard and approached site #7. One woman stepped from the group. She must have been the appointed representative.

I gave her my standard, Hi. I’m the camp host. Are you folks wanting to camp?

She said no, they were just having a barbecue. Apparently they’d been looking for a place with shade to have a barbecue, and the woman at the store where I use the internet suggested they go to my campground.

Technically, it’s a campground and not a day use area, but I’d be a real mean lady if I chased people out when the entire campground is withouth campers.

I was a bit worried this group was going to cause me trouble or leave a mess. Everybody looked pretty drunk. One older guy was curled up in a fetal position in the hatchback storage compartment of a small SUV (or maybe it was a minivan). When I said to the woman that they seemed to have a man down, she told me he had back problems.

The woman said they were just wrapping up their barbecue. When it was determined that they’d be gone within an hour, I said Enjoy your afternoon and went back to my van to deposit my clipboard.

I could hear voices coming from the nearby concrete restrooms. Campers don’t realize how well voices from within those restrooms carry out into the world. I don’t know if it’s the concrete or the vent pipes or what, but it’s obvious when someone in the restroom is talking.

It doesn’t happen often, as most people utilize the pit toilets alone and do not talk to themselves while doing so. The usual scenario for voices coming from a concrete restroom is that of an adult patiently helping a small child navigate the tall plastic seat over the scary hole.

The voices I heard didn’t sound like the adult and child interaction I usually hear. There was no patient, reassuring drone of an adult. There was no mostly incoherent babble of a toddler. What I heard sounded more like straight-up conversation.

I had to pee anyway, so I decided to investigate.

The door on the left was not closed all the way. I’d noticed this door had been closing like this, with

I took this photo to show how the door to the restroom was not completely closed.

I took this photo to show how the door to the restroom was not completely closed.

no gap between door and frame, but not fully closed, as if the occupant let the door shut behind him or herself, and the door didn’t shut all the way. The door was not flush with the frame. Usually people who are going to use the toilet are careful to close and lock the door when they go into the restroom, so I expected to find empty the room with the door not properly closed.

I knocked anyway. I always knock before I enter a restroom, even if I think I’m the only person in the campground. I don’t want to see anyone’s personal business. I don’t want to cause any embarrassment.

I knocked, then pulled the unlocked, not completely closed door open. I found the source of the voices I’d heard.

There were three little girls in the restroom. All three were standing up in a tight little huddle. All three were facing the open toilet.

Two were probably between the ages of nine and eleven, the third probably a couple of years younger. The little one and one of the older girls had long, dark shiny hair and brown skin. The other girls was pale, with apple cheeks and freckles. When they realized the door had opened, they turned around and walked toward me.

What are y’all doing in here? I asked.

I was just going to the bathroom, Freckles lied to my face.

I didn’t say the several things I could have said to call her bluff. I didn’t say, You weren’t sitting on the toilet or You have your pants up.

Instead I said, Next time, you should probably lock the door.

She said, It’s not working. I tried and tried, but it wouldn’t lock.

Liar! I didn’t call her a liar, but I knew she was lying.

First of all, I know what girls (and women too) do if a bathroom door doesn’t lock: we station a friend outside the door as a physical barrier to anyone who might try to get in. Females have been carefully trained to fear strangers seeing us performing elimination functions.

Also? There was another toilet room right next door. If the first door she tried didn’t lock, she would have probably gone next door.

Finally, the lock did work. I reached over and pushed the button on the handle and said mildly, Oh look. It’s working now. Then I said, OK. Bye.

The girls filed out of the restroom, and I closed the (locked) door behind me.

No one had been using the restroom. They were just checking out the pit toilet. Fair enough. I guess they’re kind of interesting if you’ve never seen (or cleaned) one. But lying right to my face was really uncalled for. (I wonder if that technique works on her mother.)


In Need of a Ride


Green Trees And Mountain I was coming home from civilization, chugging up the first stretch of the mountain, trying to get to the post office where I pick up my mail before it closed at noon. As I rounded a curve, I saw a person walking along the side of the road. There’s not much side to the road up there, so I was worried for the person’s safety. Besides, it was a hot day. The person was wearing a big straw hat (the kind Latino landscape maintenance workers tend to wear) and a long-sleeved white shirt, but was using a cane. The person wasn’t hitchhiking (no thumb out), but no way was I going to roll by a person walking with a cane in the heat on a narrow mountain road and not stop to find out if s/he needed help.

I stopped next to the person, who turned out to be a man. I asked him if he needed a ride, half expecting him to say no, half expecting to be told he was walking on a narrow mountain road in the heat, using his cane, because that’s what he wanted to be doing late on a Tuesday morning. (Isn’t hot mountain cane walking a new Olympic sport?) But he said that in fact he could use a ride.


I took this photo of Esmeralda, my hat model.

I keep a lot of stuff on my passenger seat and on the floor in front of it. Before the man could sit there, I needed to remove three one gallon glass jugs of water; one (full) six gallon plastic water container; three 59 oz plastic tea bottles, now filled with water; a foam camp chair (the kind without legs); my backpack of supplies for when I work at the parking lot; a duffle bag full of the entire stock of winter hats I’ve handmade over the last year; and Esmeralda, my styrofoam hat model. I told him I’d give him a ride, but I needed a few minutes to clear a space for him.

He suggested I move the van down to a turnout about 100 yards from where I was stopped. That seemed like a good idea; I didn’t  want to get rear-ended while stopped in the middle of the road. He said he’d walk down there to meet me.

Some people would say it’s dangerous to pick up a stranger and let him ride in my van. To those people I say this: If you are ever walking on a narrow mountain road with no real shoulder, in the heat of almost midday, using your cane(!), I hope someone does the right thing and stops to offer you a ride, then actually lets you in the vehicle when you say yes.

Not long after I had the front seat area cleared, the man with the cane and the big straw hat made it to the van. He climbed in, and we rolled on. He needed to be dropped off before I got to the post office, so it all worked out.

I told him my name, and he said his name was Mack, like the truck.

I’m not not sure where he was coming from. I didn’t interrogate him, but from what he said, it sounded as if his vehicle had broken down. However, I don’t recall seeing any vehicles abandoned on the side of the road.

He started talking to me about the cracks in my windshield. He suggested a place in Babylon where I could get it replaced before CHP (the California Highway Patrol) hassled me about it. He gave me convoluted directions to the place, and I pretended to know what he was talking about. I told him the van was registered in another state and said maybe that would mean the CHP wouldn’t bother me about the windshield.

He pointed to a set of three mailboxes at the end of the driveway where he wanted to be let out. I pulled off the road there.

Before he got out of the van, he gave me his card and said if I went to the windshield place, to tell them he’d sent me. I took the card and put it in the basket that holds pens, paper, incense, a lighter, two pieces of selenite, and my handmade knife with the elk antler handle.

He thanked me. I said, no problem, nice to meet you. He said the pleasure was his.

I drove away and made it to the post office before noon.

Later, I looked at Mack’s card.

Apparently, Mack (which is not the name on the card) is the president of the Babylon Area Republican Assembly (whatever that is). At the bottom of the card, under his name and a phone number and email, website, and mailing addresses, the card reads “You Know We’re RIGHT.”

That’s a rather smug sentiment.

I wonder what Mack would think if he knew he’s been rescued by an anarcha-feminist bisexual rubber tramp Deadhead tree hugger.

Photo courtesy of


A New Collage Gift (The Light)



I made another collage as a gift for a friend. This friend is a Deadhead (or at least has Grateful Dead tendencies), so I used a quote from “Scarlet Begonias” (words by Robert Hunter) for this piece. I did a variation on this same theme in January 2015; you can see that piece here: I like working with the visual images of light when I illustrate this quote.

You (Don’t) Need a Man


Content warning: domestic violence mention and statistics

Apparently at the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous some man (or men) told a woman (or possibly more than one woman) that she/they couldn’t travel/live in a van alone, that she/they needed a man (or at least a dog).

No man told me I needed a man. I heard the story from a young guy who’d heard it from his female friend. The female friend had been told (by a man) that she needed a man (or at least a dog) to travel with and (it was implied, I suppose) to protect her. This woman was already suffering from anxiety from being around so many people at the RTR, and this dude’s little public service announcement (not!) was more than she could handle. She packed up her camp and left.

When the young guy told me this story, I jokingly asked if we should go rough up the man (or men) who made such a stupid statement. First, let me say, I honestly had no intention of perpetrating violence against someone who’d made a stupid remark. I used a hyperbole (an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally) when I probably shouldn’t have.

After my comment about roughing someone up, the young guy started saying as a Buddhist…nonviolence…etc. Point taken. I get it. I didn’t really want the young guy to get physical with dudes saying something dumb. But I did want him to say he’d gone with his female friend to confront the guy(s) or that he’d spoken to the guy(s) privately. I didn’t get the idea either of those things happened.

Some people will probably say I shouldn’t be spreading this information. After all, it didn’t happen to me. I don’t even know the woman it happened to. At this point, I’m repeating a he said she said that guy over there said. Fair enough. But I’m repeating this story anyway because I believe it happened, if not at the RTR then on a Facebook group or on the Cheap RV Living Forum or somewhere in the rubber tramp world. In my experience, it’s common for men (in all walks of life) to tell women what they need (to be or do or get).

No fellow has told me I need a man (probably because I’m too old and fat and hairy and most fellows wouldn’t want me to take them up on what they probably fear I would take as an offer.) Men like to tell me I need solar or I need a five gallon propane tank. But it doesn’t take much imagination for me to believe a scenario where some dude tells a young woman that she needs a man (or a dog, he might add hastily, if he’s trying to make it seem like this isn’t some kind of pickup line).

In the interest of community, I’m going to address all partied involved and share my thoughts and advice.

Men, quite telling women what they need (to have, to be, to do). You want to know the last thing women need? The last thing any of us needs is some dude bossing us around.

If you are attracted to a woman and trying to start a relationship (or even just get a night of sex), cut the caveman crap and try listening to what the woman has to say. (And if you don’t care what a woman has to say, buy yourself an inflatable sex doll and a tube of lube and leave us alone.) Want to try something revolutionary? Ask a woman what she needs. Ask her how you can help.

If you honestly fear for a woman’s safety (maybe she’s inexperienced, maybe she’s taking dangerous chances), offer her your assistance. Address particular issues. Tell her what you see, and offer your help. If she doesn’t want your help, drop the subject. You tried. You’re not responsible for her actions (dangerous or otherwise), but you’re also not the boss of her.

And men, if you didn’t know, most women who are physically and/or sexually assaulted know the perpetrator. According to the National Institute of Justice,

most perpetrators of sexual assault are known to their victims. Among victims ages 18 to 29, two-thirds had a prior relationship with the offender. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that 6 in 10 rape or sexual assault victims said that they were assaulted by an intimate partner, relative, friend or acquaintance.

The American Bar Association  states,

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1998 and 2002:

  • Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses.
  • 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female.
  • Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers

So when you’re saying you need a man (and implying to protect you), a woman who’s been abused by her dad or raped by her husband might be thinking incredulously, Yeah, right. Even if we haven’t experienced violence at the hands of men, many women are probably thinking the same thing because we likely know women who have been abused by men. We know that simply having a man around does not mean we are protected.

For men who would never try to tell a woman what to do, support your women friends when they tell you about men who do try to boss them around. When I told a female friend at the the RTR my concerns about women there being told they needed a man, her husband absolutely dismissed what I was saying. He said he hadn’t heard anyone say anything like that. I looked at him and said, Of course you haven’t. You’re not a woman traveling alone. Because he hadn’t experienced it happening, he refused to even entertain the notion such a thing could have been said to a woman.

Nice guys, hold other men responsible for the way they treat women. You don’t have to call other men out publicly or get into a physical altercation. But let them know you don’t think it’s ok to boss people around. Even just saying, Buddy, I don’t think you’d like it if someone tried to tell you what to do gives the guy something to think about.

Women, guess what? You don’t need a man. I’m living proof, and there are plenty of other women in the world traveling alone.

Being scared is valid. Most people are nervous at some point, especially when they try new things. If you are afraid, ask people you trust for advice about whatever aspect of traveling alone is worrying you. There are several groups on Facebook for solo women travelers. If you go to the RTR, attend the women’s meetings and ask for help there. Make friends with woman who are already living the way you want to live. Consider taking a self-defense class. Research self-defense online. Read up on situational awareness. (I’ve read two good articles on the topic. The first is called “How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne” and is suitable for people of any gender, despite being posted on a website called The Art of Manliness. The second is on the Survive the Wild website.)

We’re into the second decade of the 21st century, and while male companionship is something many women desire, none of us need a man in order to live on the road. As the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin said, sisters are doin’ it for themselves.

(Read more about the 2016 RTR.)


I took the photo above.

Pileated Woodpecker


It was a slow afternoon at the parking lot. I was sitting in my camp chair, reading Bless Me, Ultima between talking to visitors. Suddenly something flew in front of and past me at eye level. I caught a flash of red as I looked up. The large bird had flown within a few feet of my head. My eyes followed it into nearby trees.

It landed low on a tree trunk and stood there for many seconds, maybe even a minute, maybe two. Time stretched long as I regarded the bird.

I could see its long bill and the red crest of feathers on its head. I knew it was a woodpecker, probably because it did actually bear a resemblance to Woody Woodpecker of cartoon fame. It didn’t laugh like Woody or use its beak to extract insects from the tree, but I was certain it was a woodpecker.

An older couple exited the trail across the street, and while I tried to signal them silently to be quiet and look over there, the woodpecker flew away.

The next day I told my co-worker (a third generation Californian who lives in the area year-round) all about the bird. I described it as big, woodpecker, red head. My co-worker said I’d seen a pileated woodpecker. He told me this is the bird whose pecking we hear reverberating like a jackhammer through the forest.

I looked it up in my book The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws, and my co-worker was absolutely right!

The books says the bird’s scientific name is Dryocopus pileatus. Its habitat is the forest, and it’s the size of a crow. The males and females look quite alike, with the males having a red stripe on its face under its eye, where the female has a black stripe. (I wasn’t looking for the red stripe, so I don’t know if the bird I saw was a male or a female.)

Interestingly, none of the other woodpeckers in the book have a crest of feathers on the head, so I probably would not have identified any of them as woodpeckers, unless I had seen them actually pecking at a tree. But the pileated woodpecker I saw looked like the Platonic ideal of a woodpecker.

I was pretty excited to have seen the bird, even before I knew what it was, especially since it had flown so close to me. My co-worker told me many people would give their eyeteeth to get a glimpse of that bird. I love getting paid while I’m spotting wildlife and enjoying nature.

I’ve seen the bird (or one of its close relatives) twice more since the first sighting. My co-worker saw it the other day too, and said it is probably a female, based on its smallish size. He thinks the bird hanging around the parking lot is a good omen.

I wondered why I never saw the bird in the parking lot last season. According to,

Pileated Woodpeckers are forest birds that require large, standing dead trees and downed wood.

Last season we didn’t have so many standing dead trees and downed wood. I think the pileated woodpecker moved into the neighborhood because  now there are many dead trees and down wood. The bird is a kind of silver lining. Many trees may have died, but they’ve brought a pileated woodpecker to the area.



It’s Saturday


It’s Saturday, and I didn’t sleep well last night.

It was one of those hot and cold nights.

Although the night air outside the van cooled off, inside the van the air was warm. I guess it was too warm inside the van, or maybe my feather comforter is getting to be too much. In any case, I had one of those nights where I’d wake up too warm and push the covers off my upper body. (I always sleep with at least a sheet over my legs.) I’d doze off, then wake up cold and have to pull the comforter over me again.

During one bout of too hot, I opened the curtains over my back windows to let the cool mountain air rush in. That was delightful…until it wasn’t.

cards, chance, deckMaybe the real culprit was playing solitaire on my phone right before trying to sleep. I’m not a gambler, and in fact I dislike playing any card game with a group of friends, but something about solitaire on an electronic device grabs me and won’t let go. Winning or losing, I just want to play. This is it, I tell myself, the last game, but then I play ten or fifteen or twenty more, until I can barely keep my eyes open. Maybe the blue light interfered with my ability to sleep, or maybe the game itself overexcited my brain.

Daylight was barely a hint outside my windows when the birds started their chirping. 4:45am and the birds were already communicating at full force. I know the early bird catches the worm, but are worms out and about and ripe for catching before daybreak? Didn’t the birds get the memo that folks like to sleep in on Saturdays?

(Back in the day when I did drugs that kept me up at night, when I heard the birds singing–even if the sun wasn’t out–I knew there’d be no sleep for me.) animal, bird's nest, birds

Because the curtains were open, when the sun did come out, the light was right in my face. Sigh. So I gave up on getting anymore sleep.

I’m not exhausted. I did get some sleep. But since I didn’t get the amount or quality of sleep I wanted, I feel tired. I have to work in the parking lot today, and it will probably be busy. I told myself I’d be nice to people today and not give sassy answers when people ask me why so many trees are dead. I was hoping to feel chipper and excited, but I suspect I’ll spend the day feeling slow and dimwitted. Maybe pancakes will perk me up, or maybe I’ll need a cup of black tea.

I wrote this piece on June 4, 2016. I ended up not drinking tea, and the parking lot wasn’t too busy. I did ok. I think I was mostly nice and while my brain might have been slow, I didn’t make any major mistakes.

Photos courtesy of and


My Campground


I wrote another poem. I went from zero to two in a couple of weeks, which isn’t a bad speed as far as poems go.

I was writing a letter to my friend and told her I didn’t have words to describe my campground. Then, as is my way, I fired off some words to describe my campground. I contemplated the words and decided they were quite poetic. So I added some words to the original words, then played with the order and finally turned it all into a poem.

I think of it as a poem that resembles an impressionist painting.

My Campground

Trees tower green.

Ladybugs alight.

Campfire smoke tickles nose.

Surrounded by songs of invisible birds.

Occasional mosquito buzzes and bites.

No noise of cars.

Sinking sun illuminates vibrant, verdant meadow.

Gentlest breeze whispers through leaves.

Sky high above crowns, blue one step from grey.

Temperature slowly dips.

Squirrel scampers on the outskirts.

Nature’s peace.


I took this photo of the vibrant, verdant meadow.

Just Picking Up Trash?


It was my day off, but I was hanging around my campsite, tending to chores such as airing out my bedding, taking an inventory of my pantry, and organizing my food supply. I’d taken a shower in my new privacy tent, using my pump-to-pressurize pesticide(less) sprayer. I was wearing my pink house dress, sitting at my picnic table, writing and feeling good.

Only one site in the campground was rented, but those folks had driven off to do something hours before. I knew they were coming back because they’d told me so before they left.

I heard a vehicle pull in on the other side of the campground. I heard a human voice say some words I didn’t understand. I heard footsteps move in the general direction of the rented campsite. I assumed I was hearing the people who were staying on the rented campsite, and I wondered vaguely why they hadn’t driven directly to their spot. I figured they’d just needed to grab something fast and it was quicker to park on the other side of the campground and cut across the empty sites on foot to get to their site.

When I looked up, I could barely make out past the trees and the restroom building the vehicle IMG_3003parked across the way. It was a big white pickup truck. I remembered the campers who’d left for the day had a small silver pickup with a camper shell on the back. As I was contemplating the vehicle that seemed to not belong in the campground, I heard things being moved around on the rented site. Day off or not, I decided I needed to investigate.

I walked over to where I could see the campsite. There was a woman on it. She was not the woman staying on the campsite. This woman had long white hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing unfashionably long shorts that were too tight around her middle.

I said, People are coming back to that campsite.

She said, Oh! (I’m sure she was surprised to see me standing there in my pink dress with my brow furrowed.) I was just picking up trash. I thought this stuff was abandoned.

I’ve been known to do some trash picking myself. In fact, I’d say trash picking is one of my favorite sports. I know what abandoned items look like. They look dirty, like dust has blown on them, like rainwater has washed mud onto them and now the mud has dried into a thin coating of dirt with bits of vegetation embedded in it. Stuff that’s been abandoned tends to be bleached by the sun, and perhaps some pieces are broken. Abandoned things probably have old cobwebs on them and there may be rodent droppings on them too. Abandoned items are strewn about, and one sees them in the same place over a period of days or weeks. The things on that campsite did not look abandoned because they weren’t. The owners hadn’t even been gone a full work day.

It’s not abandoned, I said. The people are coming back, I repeated.

I’ve just been picking up trash, she said again. I’ve been getting all kinds of stuff.

She moved back toward the truck, where the fluffy black and white dog waited silently in the open bed.

I’m the camp host here, I told her. If you come back here, I don’t want you taking my stuff.

Oh no. I won’t, she said. I’m just picking up trash, she maintained.

As she approached the truck, she called out, Is this a free campground?

No ma’am, I said. It costs $21 a night to camp here.

Oh dear! or Oh Lord! she said as she got in the truck.

Maybe she was just wanting to pick up gear that had been abandoned. I didn’t want to discourage (or think the worst of) a fellow trash picker, but I certainly don’t want anyone taking my gear when I’m gone, and I can’t have someone coming into the campground and running off with things that belong to my campers.

Hours later, after the woman was long gone, I realized what I should have said to her.

Ma’am, I’m the host in this campground. If anything is abandoned here, the maintenance men and I will handle it. Please don’t take anything out of this campground.

Now I have my speech ready if she comes back.

I took the photo in this post.


The Roadrunner Returns


Remember the roadrunner that hopped up on my side mirror one morning? It came back!

It was early evening. The sun was still out, but the temperature had dropped a bit and my van cast a big shadow. I had my table set up in a shady spot in the back of my campsite, and I was cooking dinner.

I saw movement in my peripheral vision and turned my head to investigate. The roadrunner was on the ground, strolling, in no hurry at all. I froze and watched it.

Close Up Photography Roadrunner at the Top of Red Surface during Daytime

(I’m not 100% sure it was the same roadrunner, but it seemed to be the same size and color. According to, the

[g]reater roadrunner is territorial animal…

which lends credence to my idea that it was the same bird I’d seen before.)

The roadrunner was close enough for me to see it very well, especially when it stopped moving. I could see the iridescence of its long tail feathers. I could see the crest of feathers on the top of its head move up and down. (Was the bird trying to communicate with me? If so, I missed the message.)

While I observed the bird, it picked up one of its legs and used its foot to scratch where its ear would be if it had external ear parts. The bird scratched its “ear” like a dog would. I was delighted! I’ve never seen another bird do such a thing. Is that a normal thing for a bird to do? Is that specifically a roadrunner move?

The bird didn’t seem worried or frightened. I wonder if it were as interested in me as I was in it.

As I stood watching it, the roadrunner turned its back to me. I thought it was going to walk away, but instead, it lifted its wings away from its body. It looked sort of puffed up. I could see the downy feathers on its body. Those feathers were being fluffed by the wind. I could see its skin in patches not covered by feathers. The bird stood with its wings lifted for what seemed like a long time before it walked away.

I wondered if it were trying to make itself look bigger in hopes of intimidating me. It seemed odd to me that an animal’s act of aggression would involve turning its back on a possible threat.

According to,

To warm itself during the day, the roadrunner exposes dark patches of skin on its back to the sun.

The Hill Country Naturalist says that to warm itself,

[t]he roadrunner turns its back to the sun and fluffs out its feathers, using its black skin to absorb the warmth.

So that’s what it was doing! The roadrunner was feeling chilly and was trying to get warm. Its behavior had nothing to do with me.

When the roadrunner walked away, I went over to the van and sat in the open side doors to eat my dinner. As I sat there, the bird came back! It stood about three steps away from me, parallel to the van and calmly regarded me. I thought I should grab my camera, but I was worried my movements would scare off the critter. I decided I’d rather look at it and not risk spooking it while fumbling around.

When the bird grew tired of looking at me, it walked a few more steps away from me, toward some creosote bushes. It stopped, turned its back, and commenced its wing flapping. Then it disappeared into the bushes, not to be seen again.

When I told the Lady of the House about the return of the roadrunner, she said maybe it was my new spirit guide. I’ve been pretty happy with the sloth as my spirit guide, but there’s not much I can do if the roadrunner has chosen me.

Photo courtesy of

Why It’s Better for Me to Stay on the Mountain



#1 When I’m in civilization, I spent too much money. I get into town, and I suddenly have material desires. I go into the Mexican supermarket to use the restroom, and I’m overwhelmed by wanting a sweet treat from the panadería. (I stand in front of the racks of goodies for a comically long time, weighing my options of 79 cent pastries. Thankfully, I make a good choice with a pumpkin empanada.) I go into Wal-Mart to stock up on propane, then remember I really want a tablecloth for my picnic table, then decide I need clamps to hold it down. And a stainless steel camping cup with collapsible handles would really be useful when I want to heat enough water for tea but don’t want to haul out my multiple-quart glass saucepan. Suddenly I’m almost $50 down, most of it on comforts I could do without.

#2 I eat better when I’m on the mountain. At my camp, I’m all brown rice with beans or tofu, some veggies if I’ve got them. Sure, I eat eggs for breakfast, I love cheese, and I probably eat too many processed potato products. But in town, in addition to the aforementioned emapanada, there’s a grilled breakfast burrito at Taco Bell, then later in the day, a pizza from Little Caesars. I know it’s junk food, but it’s cheap and oh so delicious. On the second day in town, in an attempt to save money (and have more time to write), I tend to not eat enough, so I return to the campground with a headache pounding behind my eyes and up my forehead.

#3 In town, I get distracted from my routine. I forget to take my glucosamine after breakfast. I find I don’t have dental floss with me when I go into the restroom of the big box store to take care of my teeth before bed. I go to sleep later than I should, and I’m generally out of sorts.

#4 The lower elevation of town means it’s hotter there. The guideline I hear from migrating rubber tramps is that for every 1000 feet drop in elevation, the temperature increases by 3˚F. My campground is at a little over 6000 feet. If it’s a warm (but relatively pleasant) 85˚F there, it’s at least 100˚F in town. By mid-summer, by the time I pull into town, I feel as if I’m in an oven and wonder why I thought leaving the mountain was a good idea. There aren’t many trees near the coffee shop I spend my days in, so the van sits in the unrelenting sun all day. Even if (if!) the night air cools off, the interior of the van stays hot for hours. (I really wish I had a roof vent.) The summer heat in town is not pleasant.

#5 I sleep poorly in town. Even since the cop knocked on my van after midnight, I don’t like to spend the night in the supermarket parking lot. (Read about that experience here: I found a place I like on a residential street, near a couple of duplexes and what looks to be a shade tree mechanic. My van doesn’t seem out of place there. I pull in after 10pm, and I’m gone well before 6am. I don’t turn on my light. However, I’m still nervous about being there. Is someone going to notice me and call the cops? Are the cops going to notice me and decide to check me out? Is someone going to try the handles on the van’s doors? Sometimes the workers from the restaurant across the street make a lot of noise putting out the trash. Some mornings the garbage truck wakes me before 5:30am. Even the reduced traffic of nighttime is noisy and it’s always so damn bright in Babylon. Also, even with my windows open, I’m usually hot all night. (See #4)

#6 When I’m in civilization, I drink coffee. Some other time I’ll go into detail about the joy and sorrow which is coffee for me, but in a nutshell, coffee makes me all jacked up. I drink it, and my whole being hums, buzzes, and twangs for hours. And hours. And hours. Bedtime rolls around, and I’m still awake, even if I’m back on the mountain and the night is dark and the air is cool. Because I usually sleep well on the mountain, I don’t need coffee up there. Because I usually sleep for shit in civilization (see #5) I have coffee on the morning of my second day in town, and I’m still feeling the effects that night. (For real.)

#7 The mountain is good for my spirit. The mountain is peaceful. The mountain is beautiful. The mountain is (mostly) natural. Just being out there brings me peace. Seeing tall trees growing just for themselves is good for me. Sitting in a place so quiet I can clearly hear the sound of the flapping of a raven’s wings as it flies over is good for me. Feeling the earth under my boots is good for me. Being on the mountain brings me a contentment I’ve never found in any city.