Monthly Archives: March 2019

Oh Death

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And then Weasel was gone too.

Weasel was a short man whose swagger told you he was tough. He said what was on his mind, even when his words made him unpopular. Folks always knew where they stood with Weasel because he said what he thought needed saying.

I met Weasel at the Bridge, the place where I met many of the people I hold dear in my heart. He sold old beads, new drums made by a local Native man who was his friend, and whatever little odds and ends he thought would bring in a few bucks. He’s an old horse-trader, people said of Weasel, although there never seemed to be actual horses involved.

Weasel fathered a child late in life. I heard stories about how that had come to pass too. By the time I knew Weasel, he and his son’s mother had made their peace. Weasel sure loved his boy. He was always proud to talk about the kid’s achievements in the classroom, Boy Scouts, and 4-H. On the rare occasion that Weasel brought the boy to the Bridge, both of them beamed. The love and respect they felt for each other was obvious.

Some of the other vendors told me Weasel had suffered a heart attack a few years before I arrived on the scene. He’d lost a lot of weight, I was told in 2012, and he was more careful about what he ate. He seemed to be doing a lot better, everyone agreed.

I’ll never forget the pep talk Weasel gave me in the early days in my life without my ex. I was homeless—didn’t even have a van back then—and carried everything I owned on my back. I slept in a picnic pavilion at a rest area at night and spent my days selling the hemp jewelry and sage bundles I constructed. I was trying to make my way in the world, just like the other vendors at the Bridge.

I’d gotten a late start on this particular day. I wasn’t able to squeeze in between William and Tommy like I usually did, and I ended up in the slower sales area next to Weasel. I couldn’t afford a table yet, and my sage branch display barely kept my bracelets and necklaces out of the dusty New Mexico dirt. When there was a lull between customers, Weasel came over to talk to me.

He’s been watching me, he said. He saw that I showed up every day to sell the things I made. He saw I worked hard to make my own way. You don’t ask nobody for nothing, he said. He saw that in a community where some folks seemed to enjoy making trouble for others, I minded my own business and didn’t try to cause strife for other vendors. He told me to keep doing what I was doing. He told me that I was going to be ok. Then he bought me a meatloaf sandwich from the woman who made her money selling lunches to the vendors. (Not too many weeks later it was Weasel’s birthday, and I had enough money in my pocket to return to the sandwich favor.)

Five years later when I returned to the Bridge with The Man, he and Weasel hit it off. Weasel may have been a horse trader by profession, but his art was carving. The Man was just starting his journey as a carver when he met Weasel. One morning Weasel stopped at The Man’s table and told him he was doing good work. Weasel wouldn’t say that if he didn’t mean it, I told The Man.

Last summer when he left the mountain, The Man ended up at Weasel’s place. Weasel was starting a retreat for artists on his land. He’d bought a couple small travel trailers and stocked them with beans and rice and coffee. He wanted artists to have a place to work where they didn’t have to worry so much about food and shelter and money.

The Man and I were in southern New Mexico when Weasel passed. We were planning to head up to northern New Mexico as soon as it warmed up. We were going to stay at Weasel’s place in one of the travel trailers.

The Man talked to Weasel on the phone on what turned out to be one of the old horse trader’s last days in this world.

What do you need? Weasel asked after The Man identified himself. Weasel was ready to offer help.

The Man explained our situation, and Weasel said sure, come on out. He said he’d be in the city the next week for a doctor’s appointment and a visit with his son and his son’s mother, but we were welcome to come over whenever we wanted and hang out at his place until he returned. He even made sure The Man remembered the combination to the lock on the gate.

I don’t know what the doctor’s appointment in the city was about or if Weasel made it there. Five days after The Man talked to him, Weasel was dead.

He was at his son’s mother’s house washing dishes when it happened. He mentioned that he couldn’t catch his breath, then collapsed. The EMTs arrived in an ambulance 14 minutes later, but it was too late. His heart had given out on him one last time.

I was sad when I heard the news, and The Man took it really hard. Weasel was his friend. He’d planned to spend more time with Weasel, carve with him, help him make improvements to his homestead. He missed Weasel, but I think he was also sad for the possibilities of the friendship that never came to fruition. It was going to be such a great summer with Weasel, The Man said wistfully.

Maybe it’s the missed possibilities that make us saddest when someone dies. We regret the words we never said and sometimes the words we did say. We regret the things we never did together, the lessons we never learned, the help we never gave.

I hope that Weasel died with no regrets. I can’t imagine he left this world with words unsaid. I hope he’d at least made a try at all the things he wanted to do.

Weasel was not a perfect man. He was a fighter and maybe not always for a righteous cause. I would have never wanted to be on his bad side. He could he harsh, and I witnessed some of his business dealings where I felt he was being a little slick with the truth. However, at his core, he was a good man. He was a loving father and a true friend.

I feel saddest for his son. At 12, he’s on the cusp of the years when a boy particularly needs a positive role model to teach him how to be a good man. What’s that kid going to do without his father? Yet, he got 12 years more than a lot of kids get. He got 12 years with a father who loved him and enjoyed being with him. He got 12 years with a father who was firm, but fair. He got 12 years with a father who respected him and was his biggest cheerleader. He got 12 years with a man who’d grown up enough to be not just a good father, but a great father.

The Bridge won’t be the same without Weasel. Who will throw lucky pennies in front of vendors’ tables? Who will walk down the row of vendors wishing everyone a good morning? Who will fight the good fight when the powers-that-be tell us we can no longer make a living selling our wares to visitors? We don’t have Weasel anymore, so we’ll have to do those things ourselves. Weasel respected self-sufficiency. He’d be glad to know he taught us something.

Unusual Bodily Connections and Their Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being (Guest Post)

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Today is World Oral Health Day. According to the World Oral Health Day website, it


is celebrated globally every year on 20 March. It is organized by FDI World Dental Federation and is the largest global awareness campaign on oral health.


WOHD spreads messages about good oral hygiene practices to adults and children alike and demonstrates the importance of optimal oral health in maintaining general health and well-being.

March 20 was chosen as World Oral Health Day


to reflect that:
Seniors must have a total of 20 natural teeth at the end of their life to be considered healthy
Children should possess 20 baby teeth
Healthy adults must have a total of 32 teeth and 0 dental cavities
Expressed on a numerical basis this can be translated as 3/20 hence March 20

In honor of this day, we’ll take a break from our usual Wednesday posts of special interest to vandwellers, vagabonds. nomads, drifters, rubber tramps, and travelers and share this guest post by Catherine Workman. Catherine’s article tells us about the impact oral health has on the human body’s overall general health, the link between dental and mental health, and as a bonus, how gut bacteria influences mental and physical well being. Of course, such information is important to everyone, including folks who live on the road.

The human body is an endless source of surprise, with odd connections that would seem highly improbable if science hadn’t provided the evidence. Research has established a connection between periodontal and cardiovascular health and proven a connection between one’s gut and mental and metabolic health. It’s strange to think that a healthy gut would have an effect on your mental well-being as well as obesity and whether you get diabetes, but such is the case. Understanding these connections is important and the first step in preventing serious physical and psychological problems. And it’s very likely that understanding how to use these connections to stay healthy and happy can help prevent serious conditions.

Gums and Heart

Gum disease results from the buildup of plaque around the teeth, increasing the incidence of inflammation within the body, especially chronic long-term inflammation, a key factor in an array of health issues, particularly atherosclerosis. And while there’s no clear proof that preventing periodontal disease will prevent cardiovascular disease, researchers have concluded that the link between the two is reason enough to be diligent about maintaining good oral health.

Proper oral health includes being faithful about brushing, flossing, and making regular visits to the dentist, all of which play an even more important role in one’s overall health than previously understood. Gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums, is an early warning sign of periodontal disease. Swollen, red, or sensitive gums that bleed easily are indicators of gingivitis and should be brought to your dentist’s attention as soon as possible.

Dental and Mental Health

There is also a connection between oral and mental health. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, two-thirds of people suffering from depression indicated having had a toothache or some other dental problem in the past year. Depressed persons also tended to have teeth in fair or poor condition. Evidently, poor dental health is linked to a range of mood disorders. It can be difficult to know which comes first, but there is evidence that people who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to neglect their own hygiene.

Depression is also a cause of poor dietary habits and the ingestion of sugary and acidic foods that are bad for the teeth. Maintaining a healthy oral health routine is the most direct form of treatment, though some people may require pharmacological help, including the prescription of medications to alleviate their mental suffering.

Your Gut, Your Health

One of the most impactful findings of recent years is the relationship between gut bacteria — a proper balance between good and bad bacteria — and various aspects of one’s mental and physical well-being. Your overall health begins in your gut, where bacteria such as Akkermansia, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium play a major role in preserving your health.

Gut bacteria are involved in proper food digestion and are tied to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, and even mental health problems such as depression. Gut bacteria line your entire digestive system, most of which live in the colon and intestines, and affect profoundly important bodily functions, such as your metabolism and immune system. Insufficient anti-inflammatory gut bacteria is likely to cause colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Following a healthy diet, which should include whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, can help place your good and bad gut bacteria back in balance and overcome health problems related to gut-related problems. Regular exercise and taking probiotics can also improve gut health. Alternative approaches include ginger and turmeric, an anti-inflammatory; milk thistle, which speeds slow digestion; and slippery elm, which soothes acid reflux.

We’re accustomed to thinking of major organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver as the primary influencers of one’s health. It can be strange to think that good physical and mental health begins in the mouth and in one’s gut. However, maintaining good oral and gut health clearly have an impact on one’s overall health and well-being.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in a while. She travels to boost her physical and mental health.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Transit Driver Appreciation Day

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Bus Interior

Today is Transit Driver Appreciation Day! This holiday seems to the brainchild of TriMet transportation (providing bus, light rail and commuter rail service) out of Portland, Oregon.  

I think most transit drivers are real public heroes. They deal with traffic; inclement weather; and strange, belligerent, confused, and angry passengers. I always thank my driver.

The story that follows isn’t specifically about a transit driver, but it took place on a city bus, so I think it fits the occasion. Anything could happen on a city bus. Drivers and passengers alike have to be prepared for surprises.

Long ago I lived in a large city in Texas. I didn’t have a vehicle, so I walked or biked or rode the bus to get to all the places I needed to go. Work was a long way from home, father than I wanted to ride my bike early in the morning or after a long day on the job, so I spent a lot of time on public transit at the beginning and end of each work day.

One afternoon I was on a bus full of evening commuters. The place was packed. Every seat was taken, and I was grateful I’d gotten on early and had a place to sit.

White Bus on Road Near in High Rise Building during Daytime

I don’t remember when the woman boarded the bus of if I’d noticed her when she did. I was sitting in one of the forward facing double seats on the same side as the driver; she was across the aisle from me and father up, in the middle of the row of seats facing the aisle.

The interior of the bus was noisy with the sound of people talking mixed with the steady thump thump of wheels on pavement and the roar of engine. As the bus approached a red light, the driver decreased our speed, and the roar of the engine died down.

Of course, the bus was not the only vehicle on the road. We were in the midst of big-city rush hour traffic, so there were a dozen or more vehicles between the bus and the intersection. Even after traffic started moving, it was going to be a while until we started chugging along again.

It was at this time the woman decided to make her pronouncement.

I have to go to the bathroom! she called out in a loud, singsong voice. She placed the stress on the word “have” and the first syllable of “bathroom.”

Red Metal Bars in Side Vehicle

The woman was young, but definitely not a child. Most adults would not make this announcement to people they didn’t know

Everyone else on the bus was immediately uncomfortable and quiet. The interior of the bus was enveloped in the silence that occurs when a group of strangers are feeling socially awkward together. But ok, the outburst was over. We could move on…

I have to go to the bathroom, the woman burst out again.

Oh, the awkwardness was not over.

As the bus inched its way forward, the woman turned her words into a little chant.

I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. Her voice grew more plaintive as her chant progressed.

None of the other passengers on the bus would look at the woman or at each other. No eye contact was being made.


I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom.

We could all hear the growing desperation in her voice.

Even if the bus driver would have let her out between stops, there was no place for her to go. We were in the middle of a block with an empty athletic field on the right and businesses not likely to have public restrooms on the left. Even if she got off the bus, where would she find the restroom she seemed so desperately to need?

I have to go to the bathroom.

Finally, the bus was close to the traffic light. Surely when the light turned green the bus would make it through the intersection.

I have to go to the bathroom.

Red became green, and the bus made it through, but I guess the woman was going to hold out until she got to her stop. She didn’t pull the cord to ring the bell or dash to the door. In fact, several blocks later when we got to my stop, I could hear her as I got off the bus, still chanting about her need to go to the bathroom.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-sitting-bus-seats-34171/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-bus-on-road-near-in-high-rise-building-during-daytime-68427/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/bar-bus-grip-hand-grips-1462097/.

St. Patrick’s Day Limerick Bonus Blog Post

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I’m participating in #authorschallenge2019. Throughout the month of March, I’ve been responding to challenge prompts on my Blaize Sun Facebook page. Today’s challenge is to write a leprechaun limerick. I’m sharing that limerick with you today as a bonus blog post, but you can also find it (and all of my responses to the challenge) on my Blaize Sun Facebook page.

There once was a leprechaun named Shorty

who didn’t want to go to the party.

“I’d rather stay home

than ramble and roam.

Besides, I ate beans and feel farty.”

Photo by Anthony from Pexels.

Chicken Nugget

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The Man and I had left the mountain and were traveling east on Interstate 40. We were each in our own van, not trying to follow each other, but with a prearranged meeting in mind.

I pulled off in Kingman, AZ to top off my gas tank and empty my bladder.

I’ve never spent much time in Kingman. I’ve used it as a gasoline and bathroom break stop on trips between Las Vegas, NV and Phoenix, and I spent a few hours there with Mr. Carolina and the boys when we were traveling together to Oklahoma City, but I’ve never spent the night. When I was there with Mr. Carolina and the boys in early November of 2012, there seemed to be a lot of tension in the town. People yelled out of car windows at other drivers, and the vibe wasn’t friendly. I did, however, collect enough money by flying a sign to get the oil change my van desperately needed, so there was some love in the town.

On the day in the fall of 2018 when I drove through Kingman alone, I stopped at the traffic light at the end of the off ramp, waiting for it to change to green so I could turn and make my way to the Flying J. Just after the light changed, but before the vehicles ahead of me started moving, a small SUV rolled up next to me in the far left turn lane. The SUV slowed down as it pulled up next to me, but kept rolling slowly.

A head popped out of the front passenger window. The passenger seemed to be male, was definitely young, and had dark curly hair. The passenger looked right at me and hollered, “What’s up, you fucking chicken nugget?”

I wasn’t offended so much as startled and mystified.

Why me? Why was the kid yelling at me? Probably for no reason other than proximity. My window happened to be next to his window as the vehicle he was in slowed, so he yelled at me.

But why call me a chicken nugget? Nothing about me really says “chicken nugget” as far as I can tell. Are people in hippie vans known to eat a lot of chicken nuggets? I never got that memo. Do poor people eat a lot of chicken nuggets because the poultry chunks are cheap? Was he calling me poor because I was driving an old, banged up van?

I know I’m probably overthinking this. The kid probably yelled at me simply because I was there. He probably opened his mouth and let the first thing that popped into his head pop out. He probably just said something to make his friends in the vehicle with him laugh. What he said probably meant nothing at all.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/drive-empty-highway-lane-210112/.

I Knew One Thing: I Couldn’t Sit at Home (an Interview with Brent)

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I met Brent at the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). I was sitting in a group of folks at the chili dinner, and I introduced myself to the one person I didn’t know. The guy said his name was Brent and he read my blog. Aw, shucks!

Brent has been a good friend to me and a big supporter of my writing since that day. From postcards sent from his travels overseas to much appreciated financial support, Brent’s friendship lifts my spirits and has gotten me out of more than one pickle. It does my writer’s heart good to know that Brent is out in the world reading my blog.

Brent writes a blog too. It’s called Brent’s Travels, and he writes about the places he goes, the things he sees, and the people he meets. I applaud Brent’s dedication to sharing his knowledge in order to help other vagabonds, drifters, nomads, rubber tramps, and travelers. Brent doesn’t mind telling folks what’s worked (and what hasn’t) for him.

Lots of things make Brent interesting (including his career as a firefighter, his strong desire to meet people entirely different from himself, and his knowledge of engineering), but in this interview I’m focusing on the fact that for four months in each of the last six years, he’s lived and traveled in three completely different rigs: a camper van, a Toyota Prius, and pickup truck with a popup camper cap. Today Brent will share the pros and cons of each of these rigs, as well as what he’s learned living and traveling in a small car.

Rubber Tramp Artist (RTA): I know that you’ve traveled extensively in three different rigs. Could you tell me the make and model of each one of those?

Brent: I started out in a Class B with a Chevrolet chassis from 1994, and it was a…Coachmen. I had bought that obviously used and it was significantly in great shape but hadn’t been used in a few years so it needed to just have a few things done. [I put] about $1,000 into it and then I got on the road with that one, my first year. I did not enjoy driving it…

The next one was a 2011 Prius that I significantly engineered to live out of totally. I could do everything I needed to do in that vehicle.

RTA: What are you in now?

Brent: I’m in a 2011 Toyota Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper, normally referred to as FWC, popup camper cap on the back.

RTA: You said you traveled in the van for one year?

Brent: I did.

RTA: And the Prius was…?

Brent: Three years.

RTA: And how long have you been in the truck?

Brent: This is my second year.

RTA: What did you like about traveling in the van? What three things did you really like about the van?

Brent: Being able to get from the front to the back just by stepping through the slot between the two front seats. Having everything basically a lot more organized because there was a lot more space. Space was plenty and those were the two things that I think were best.

RTA: What were the two or three things you really disliked about the van?

Brent: I hated the refrigerator! It was a three-way fridge and…

RTA: What does that mean, a three-way fridge?

Brent: It runs on 12 volts, 120 volts, and runs on gas. I basically used it as a pantry.

RTA: Gas meaning propane?

Brent: Propane. And I opted initially, because I did not like it, I opted for an Engle fridge that I still use today.

RTA: What didn’t you like about the fridge?

Brent: Because it consumed too much electricity on 12 volts. I never was interested in plugging in, and the [propane] you can’t use when you’re driving. It just wasn’t a convenient thing for my operation. That was really the biggest thing.

The other thing was I started doing mountains with it and it was just too

Gray Concrete Road Surrounded by Green Grass

heavy a vehicle for the braking system coming down those mountains. Sometimes I was scared coming down even though I had it in low gear. It was just too heavy.

RTA: What two or three things did you like best about traveling in the Prius?

Brent: I could park anywhere. I could just literally just park it and be anywhere, a parking garage, a street. It was an anywhere kind of vehicle. All I had to do was lower the back of my driver’s seat, slide into the back [of the car], pull the lever, let [the seat] flop back up, pull the curtain across, and I was there. I was done. That was perfect.

RTA:  So super stealthy.

Brent: Yeah.

Fuel Dispenser

RTA: People usually mention the gas mileage on their Prius too.

Brent: Gas mileage was excellent. I averaged…My first years I did not use heat and air conditioning, and I averaged 50 miles per gallon.

RTA: Wow!

Brent: Using heat and air conditioning, it was 45 miles per gallon.

RTA: That’s fantastic. What did you dislike about the Prius?

Brent: The Prius, even coming to the RTR I had to be very careful. I came in one day, and they’d just been grading the road and they had a ridge in the middle of the road and then the brims trying to get off into the camping areas. I was scraping the bottom constantly. I went to Ruby, Arizona where there’s a ghost town. I drove all the way there from Nogales on this backroad. I had no problem. I got to Ruby, [there was] a cattle crossing and the other side of the cattle crossing had about a four or five inch drop—it was missing dirt. I [knew] that I was going to land right on the frame and I would be stuck so…I had to get out a lot and look. I decided to [go] north to Arivaca, and the river had been running across [the road] and although there was no water, the ridge that was left in the road, I couldn’t get over without hanging the center of the vehicle up. That wasn’t a big deal but it became problematic when I wanted to see sights that were outside of the normal routes that you could take a Prius, you know, the clearance.

RTA: Anything else you didn’t like about the Prius?

Brent: No. There was more to like than there was not to like with the Prius.

RTA: What do you like about your current rig set up?

Brent: The current rig…I can go down washes. Up in Utah—I go to Utah

Welcome to Utah Poster Under Blue Daytime Sky

every March, and I travel all kinds of back roads, and these back roads cross washes and sandy areas…I’ve got high clearance so I can get into places and camp for the night where other people just don’t go. It’s nice. I don’t have a sense of worrying that if there’s a little water in the wash I’m going to have a problem because the truck just goes through it.

Just as an example, going to the Valley of the Gods, coming in from Mexican Hat, there’s a water crossing there. I don’t stop to check it out to see how deep it is because I can visually [determine if the truck can make it across], but with the Prius I’d have to physically get out and measure the depth of the water to make sure I was ok…

…It was not coming here to the RTR that was the problem. It was really Utah. If I really wanted to experience some of the back country places in Utah, I needed a different vehicle. When I’m done doing all that…I kept my Prius, so I can always use my Prius.

RTA: What do you dislike about your current rig?

Brent: Obviously, when you stop or camp somewhere, you have to get out of the back to get to the front. I’ve not had a problem that way. It may just be…in my head that that’s important, but the last two vehicles, I was able to do that and I can’t do it with this one.

The other thing is that it cost me a lot more money to operate because of the gas mileage being less.

RTA: Do you feel like it hinders your ability to be stealthy?

Brent: Certainly not as stealthy as [in the Prius]. I’m a designer, and I design a lot of stuff, so I designed a bed [in the camper] that I can sleep in without having to put the top up. That works really well in parking lots and in more areas that you wouldn’t have if you had to put the top up. I can easily get in the back, and I can access my refrigerator and do everything. I just don’t have to put the top up. I actually have more room in there [without putting the top up] than I did in my Prius so it’s not a negative from the perspective of that. Having lived in a Prius, it made the transition ok, but it certainly isn’t stealthy.

RTA: Do you think that there is a perfect rig to live and travel in?

Brent: Certainly a white commercial type van is the way to go…because it gives you the room, gives you the security, gives you pretty much everything you want. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time in designing things…that would be an interesting vehicle for me to design and build out.

RTA: But maybe not the gas mileage?

Brent: It certainly wouldn’t be the gas mileage. The Prius was nice because I move a lot. I go to play disc golf downtown. I’m going out and looking at something and moving all the time, so the Prius was really important for the gas mileage. I still do that, but it cost me a lot more money. The four months I spend on the road, this is going to be my sixth year, I put on 16 to 20,000 miles.

RTA: Wow!Brent: Gas really adds up. It takes me 3,000 miles to get [to Quartzsite, AZ].

RTA: Do you think if you had a cargo van, would that allow you the clearance you need to go to these places in Utah that you want to go to?

Brent: For the most part, yes. I know people who go in there with two wheel drive cargo type vans and they have clearance enough.

RTA: I’m sure living and traveling in a Prius presented special challenges. What challenges did you face that were specific to living in a small car?

Brent: Not being able to stand up. If that’s important to you, then [a Prius] is not the vehicle for you.

I was able to totally wash up my whole body. I could heat hot water with electricity. I had a house battery so I could do everything. I could sit in the back. I had a little table that I could sit [at] and type on a keyboard. It really was vertical height [that was the challenge], if that is important. Now when I laid in bed, I could incline, but I couldn’t sit perfectly up. I had to tilt my head down to be able to actually sit on my bed…I slept on a backpacking mattress because…the height of a four inch foam would just cause more problems.

RTA: What advice would you give to someone considering living and traveling in a small car?

Brent: Make sure it is absolutely something that you know what to expect and what you want to do because there are people who would just not be happy in [those] circumstances. There’s no amenities. You have to be willing to kind of rough it.

Just swapping around things to go to the bathroom on your pail is an activity. Your pail has to be…Mine was a two gallon pail because you can’t have a five gallon pail in a Prius…

I replaced all my clothing with wicking poly clothing that dries fast, and it rolls up into such small things…because you have no space.

…The smaller the vehicle the greater your organization skills are necessary.

RTA: Good point! How would your choice of rigs be different if you were living and traveling in it full time and you didn’t have a sticks-n-bricks to go back to and use as a place to store your belongings?

Brent: Certainly a van. Certainly a van would be the vehicle. I agree with the people who have gone that route. I would want it to look plain…a plain white van.

RTA: Your other van was more like a camper van, right?

Brent: It was. It had a…this bulbous top of fiberglass that overhung the driver’s seat where you could have a double bed up there. It was this thing that was overhanging. It had the pinstripes on it from the company’s name on it.

RTA: So it didn’t feel stealthy at all?

Brent: No. It was perfectly non-stealthy.

RTA: How would your choice of rigs be different if you were traveling with another person? Would you also go for a van in that case?

Brent: I would. My pickup camper is ok for a second person. It’s not as roomy as a van. If you both need your own space, the pickup camper is limited in that regard. In a van, there’s enough separation. Someone could go sit in the front seat and someone could sit in the back. You have some level of separation. You just don’t get that in the pickup camper.

RTA: What are your three favorite things about traveling for several months each year?

Brent: Well, I live in the northeast which is notorious for cold weather…[In the desert], I get to see sun for days. I like to hike and I like to play disc golf so those two things don’t cost a lot, they’re easy to do, and there are many places to do them. I can’t say I have the same enjoyment in New England in the winter. I travel from January through April. I go home for the first mowing of the lawn in Massachusetts. It’s May 1, so [I] don’t need to be there before May 1.

RTA: You spend the majority of your travel time in the Southwest?

Brent: That’s correct.

RTA: What are your three least favorite things about traveling for several months each year?

Brent: (Long pause) Not seeing the friends that are at home, I guess. Probably that’s the top of the list. My mother’s birthday is coming up, so I’m not there for my mother’s birthday. She’s 92 this year. But I spend a lot of time with her when I am home, and she knows that…

The love of doing this exceeds all that…It just does.

RTA: Is there anything else I didn’t ask about that you feel like you want to add?

Brent: I think that it’s important to kind of have a reference for my age and the fact that I’m retired. I retired at 62½. I had no clue what I was going to do. I knew one thing: I couldn’t sit at home. I knew that I would go crazy sitting at home for the winter…I’m a very active person, so on the spur of the moment, I said, I’m just going to buy a van, and I’m just going to drive around the United States, and that’s what I did. That’s why I ended up with the Class B. It worked. It got me out. It got me going. It got me educated. I did not know about the RTR the first year, so when I got out here, it was well after it had finished…

Round Grey and Black Compass

I look forward to doing this. This is my mantra: I want to be outside; I want to be out with people doing things, having enjoyable weather.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-concrete-road-surrounded-by-green-grass-1461033/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/fuel-dispenser-1563510/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/welcome-to-utah-poster-under-blue-daytime-sky-954289/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/round-grey-and-black-compass-1736222/.

J Gurl

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Nolagirl and I were at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity in the spring of 2018. We were looking at the art cars and came across one that turned out to be one of my favorites of the whole day, J Gurl by Diane Bombshelter from Tucson, AZ.

According to her website, Diane Bombshelter is primarily a painter who creates on black velvet. Apparently she’s really good at painting on cars too.

This is the big picture of what her art car looks like.

An art car is brightly painted with images of bugs and flowers. The Blessed Virgin Mary is painted on the hood.
Can you see the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hood of this art car?

When I got up close and starting looking at the details, I liked the car more and more.

Here’s the sacred heart painted on the back passenger door. I like the way pieces of broken mirror were used to accentuate the painting and add sparkle to the area. Also, the rough edges of the glass could cut the viewer, which I think brings to mind the pain caused by those thorns wrapped around the heart.

Sacred heart painted on the side of art car JGIRL.

Much of the imagery on the car is specifically female and really celebrates feminine power and energy. For example, here’s a uterus complete with egg tubes, ovaries, developing eggs, cervix, and endometrial lining painted on the rear passenger side of the car. Again, mirrors (this time round ones to echo the roundness of the eggs) catch the light and add sparkle and shimmer. Of course the pink background evokes stereotypical femininity but perhaps also a reclaiming of female strength.

Painting of uterus on the art car JGIRL. Ovaries, egg tubes, and endometrial lining also featured.

Here’s a vulva, right over the gas tank! Do you think that placement was random or a conscious choice?

Painting of a red and pink vulva on the art car JGURL.

The details that went into this representation of the vulva make me really happy. The yellow represents flames, perhaps, or bolts of energy. The red jewels outlining the border are also very sweet–more sparkle, more pizzazz. You may not be able to tell from my photo, but the clitoris is entirely composed of shiny little jewels. This vulva is a celebration of womanly parts. This vulva shines!

Art car JGURL has painting of Kwan Yin on the side. Sunlight is lighting her face and head. Glass beads radiate out from her head.

Ah, there’s Quan Yin, one of my favorite manifestations of Goddess energy. According to a Crystallinks webpage,

Quan Yin is one of the most universally beloved of deities in the Buddhist tradition. Also known as Kuan Yin, Quan’Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is the embodiment of compassionate loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, She hears the cries of all beings…

Contemplating the Goddess of Mercy involves little dogma or ritual. The simplicity of this gentle being and Her standards tends to lead Her devotees towards becoming more compassionate and loving themselves…

Don’t you like the way I took the photo so the sunlight makes the area at the top of Goddess’ head glow? I’m pleased with that aspect of the photo, although I can’t remember if it was a conscious composition or a happy accident.

Art car JGURL has a mosaic of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hood.
This photo courtesy of Nolagirl.

If the Blessed Virgin Mary is more your style when it comes to Goddess representation, Bombshelter has that covered for you on the hood of the car. The image of the BVM is made from flat glass marbles and is surrounded by small BVM statues. The blue flowers are artificial and permanently adhered to the hood as far as I could tell.

It’s obvious that so many loving details went into the design of this car. Even the dashboard is carefully decorated.

Dashboard of art car JGURL. Toys decorate the dashboard and the word "Goddess" is spelled out in Scrabble letters.

My favorite part of this interior decoration is the word “Goddess” spelled out in Scrabble letters. Clever!

In a 2015 article about the Art Car World museum in Douglas, AZ, Diane Bombshelter discussed pushing the boundaries of what cars are supposed to look like and represent in our society.

“Breaking that taboo opens people’s minds. It doesn’t have to be a certain way; it can be this way, too,” she said

“… I wanted to bring art to the public, instead of the public having to go to an art gallery.”

Arizona license plate on an art car. The plate number reads J-G-U-R-L.

I greatly enjoyed seeing and appreciate this art car. Hopefully I’ll see it again someday and take photos of the art on the driver side.

See Diane Bomshelter’s paintings on black velvet on her website.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about another art car called California Fantasy Van  that was also at the spark! Festival.

I took the photos in this post, except for the one attributed to Nolagirl.


Campground Mystery

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The Man and I arrived at Bluewater Lake State Park late on a Saturday morning. We were going to stay there for a while using my New Mexico State Parks Pass.

We drove through all the campground loops looking for the right spot for us. We were disappointed to see most sites did not have any shade covers. Although it was late September and the temperatures were mild, we didn’t want the sun beating down on us for hours a day.

Sky is blue with puffy white clouds. Bluewater Lake is in the foreground.
Bluewater Lake, New Mexico

We finally found a suitable site in the Canyonside Campground. While there was no metal shade cover on the site, a tree growing next to the picnic table offered some relief from the afternoon sun. Unfortunately, an older couple was already camped on the site next door.

Usually we wouldn’t camp so close to other people, especially when there were plenty of empty spaces throughout the park. However, we’d been through all the developed camping areas, and the site with the tree was the best spot we found in regards to shade, flatness, and proximity to restrooms, so we took it.

The folks next door had a popup camper set up on the asphalt parking spur. Our van was on our site’s asphalt parking spur. We parked with our side doors facing our picnic table. Basically our van had its back to the site next door, offering us and our neighbors some privacy.

Dam at Bluewater Lake State Park
The dam at Bluewater Lake

Early Sunday afternoon, the people next door were still there but where obviously packing up. The Man and I took Jerico the dog for a walk. We went to a lookout area and saw the dam and the lake. It was a beautiful day.

When we got back to our campsite, Jerico made a beeline to a large rock just off the asphalt in front of the van.The rock was definitely on our campsite, and I’d leaned my two folding tables against it when I’d taken them out of the van to give us a little more elbow room. Why in the world would the dog be interested in that rock?

I’ll tell you why: a hamburger. An unwrapped, homemade 3/4 of a hamburger complete with bun was lying on the ground right up against the side of that rock. Jerico was immediately trying to munch it down. While The Man does sometimes give Jerico small bites of people food, he doesn’t let the pup ground score items of unknown origin.

We ushered Jerico away from the burger, picked it up and deposited in the trash, all the while wondering where it had come from. It certainly hadn’t been there the night before, so it hadn’t been left behind by the last people who camped on the site. I would have seen it when I leaned the tables against the rock, and had the hamburger been there the entire time, Lord knows Jerico would have tried to get at it at some point in the last 24 hours.

Someone came onto our campsite while we were gone and put that hamburger there, I whispered to The Man.

Who would do that? he asked. And why?

He suggested maybe someone was eating the hamburger while walking on the road that looped through the camping area. The person had enough of the hamburger and instead of carrying it back to their own camp or depositing it in one of the nearby trashcans, the person randomly tossed the hamburger and it landed next to the rock on our site.

This idea was no less absurd than the thought of someone tiptoeing onto our site while we were away and gently placing 3/4 of a hamburger next to the rock. In the first place, who’s going to toss a large portion of a hamburger into a camping area, even it it’s mostly empty? Secondly there was another campsite between us and the road. The hypothetical person munching a hamburger while walking through the campground would have to be a champion in hamburger distance tossing to have gotten that hamburger across the vacant campsite and onto ours. Of course, the person would also have to be a champion in hamburger precision tossing to get it so close to that rock. The hamburger was lying there so neatly when Jerico found it, the buns still lined up precisely. That burger had been placed, not tossed.

This led us back to the question of who would do such a thing. I cast a suspicious eye on the couple in the popup camper. Was the hamburger some sort of weird retaliation for parking next to them when so much of the campground was empty? Of course, I didn’t walk over and question them–I’m much too Southern for such a thing.

Let’s suppose someone did carefully place the remains of the hamburger next to the rock. Who does such a thing and why? If they had a leftover hamburger and thought it would be a nice treat for Jerico, why not come over and offer it? I don’t think it’s a good idea to give food to dogs (or kids) without getting approval from the responsible adult first. What if the dog (or kid) can’t have certain foods because of allergies or other health concerns? What if the responsible adult doesn’t think it’s a good idea to let the dog (or kid) eat food provided by strangers?

If someone wanted to give the remains of the burger to Jerico but had to get if off their campsite immediately, while we were away, why not put it on a napkin or paper plate and leave it with a note on our picnic table? Why leave a well-meant offering on the ground beside a rock?

Some people would say I’m making much ado about nothing, but this is the sort of little mystery my mind keeps going back to. Who did it? Why? Why did this seem like a good idea to someone? Was it an accident or on purpose? Why on our campsite? Was it some kind of prank? Was it a harmless gesture or did someone have nefarious intentions?

I have no hope of learning the truth. I’ll take these questions to my grave.

Thoughts on the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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Black letters on yellow sign read "Rubber Tramp Rendezvous"

I actually didn’t spend much time at the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

I’d planned to volunteer at the RTArt Camp and stay in that area with The Man in his minivan, but there was a misunderstanding with the main Art Camp organizer, and she didn’t save a spot for us. She tried to squeeze us in next to the portable toilets, but neither The Man nor I wanted to sleep and cook next to the shitters. Besides, we would have been camped practically within arm’s reach of our neighbors, and even if the humans had been ok with that, every little movement from either side would have probably set Jerico the dog to barking.

White banner reads "R T Art Camp" in multicolored letters.
This is the 2018 RTArt Camp banner that Coyote Sue and I painted.

The RTArt Camp was in a much better location than in 2018. It was adjacent to the road into (and out of) the RTR and very close to the main stage. I was glad it was easier to find and get to, but having the camp roped off limited the number of people who could park their rigs within the designate Art Camp area. The Art Camp organizer told me only Art Camp volunteers were allowed to stay within the camp. I wondered if this arrangement made the camp feel exclusive to people. In 2018, I had been glad that anyone who wanted to could camp near the art community; I know at least one woman camped near us because it felt like a safe space to her.

The Man and I (along with Jerico the dog) arrived at the RTR on the afternoon of January 10. We found our friend Gee staffing the check-in station, and she gave us hugs and wrote down the mini van’s license plate number. We drove to the Art Camp and parked there while trying to decide if we were going to make our camp by the shitters. We walked around the RTR a bit while trying to make our decision. We went to the main seminar area where between 300 and 500 people (I’m terrible at estimating attendance, by the way) were listening to the afternoon speaker.

We walked over to the free pile which was being curated by a fellow who could have used some customer service training. I found several cans of tuna; a couple of fresh oranges; and a nice, big zipper pouch, but I suspect all the really great scores were snatched up quick with so many people milling about.

One change with the free pile in 2019 was that is was only “open” during certain hours each day. In the past, folks could peruse the free pile any time of the day or night. The always-available nature of the free pile meant that if it rained during the night, all of the offerings got wet unless some good Samaritan ran out of their rig and threw a tarp over everything. I suspect at closing time, the free pile volunteer covered everything with a tarp to protect the goodies from the elements.

The volunteer on duty also helped keep dogs off the free pile offerings, which probably helped cut down on the amount of dog piss on the items. Covering the free pile for the night surely also kept wayward dogs from spoiling the items.

The volunteer on duty received any donations and rejected anything deemed unworthy. On the one hand, I understand not wanting to clutter the free pile with trash, but of course, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. What if something the volunteer rejected was just the thing someone needed? The guy who needed customer service training met donations with suspicion, as if he believed most people were trying to encumber him with junk.

Another change at the RTR was having a camping area set aside for event volunteers. The main entrance to this area was staffed by a volunteer acting as a bouncer of sorts. I didn’t try to get into that area alone, so I don’t know what sort of challenge was issued if someone without the proper credentials tried to get in. Having an exclusive area for volunteers seemed a little strange to me, but I’m not really sure why things were set up that way, other than hearing a volunteer say, We feel really protective of Bob. That would be Bob Wells she was talking about. If you don’t already know, he’s the host of the RTR and the force behind the Cheap RV Living website and YouTube channel. I suppose he probably does have a large enough fan base to cause worry that people might be standing outside his van day and night, clamoring to meet him.

As has been reported in numerous other places, the 2019 RTR was HUGE! It was so big, when The Man and I stood at the Love’s truck stop on the west side of Quartzsite, we could look to the east and see the many, many rigs all the way across town at the RTR. It was amazing. It was also overwhelming to imagine living among so many people, so we decided to make our camp in the less dusty, less populated BLM area near Dome Rock.

This is the view from our camp in the Dome Rock BLM camping area on the morning of January 14, 2019

From what Gee told me on the first Sunday of the gathering, everything had been running smoothly. Aside from a few rude people who stopped at the vehicle check-in station, folks had been polite to each other and the volunteers, and everyone seemed to be getting along. I was glad to know most folks had been behaving appropriately.

With such a large group camping in a wide area, having the “streets” named and signed seemed to be helpful. I’m sure people were able to meet up more easily when they could at least tell each other with some accuracy what street they were camped on.

Another way for people to find each other was by posting announcements on one of the bulletin boards near the main stage. It must have been helpful to be able to leave a note asking to meet up with like-minded people. After all, one of the reasons Bob started the RTR was to give nomads the opportunity to meet each other and make friends.

I went to the RTR primarily to help out at the Art Camp and to conduct some interviews for the blog. I spent a few hours at the Art Camp on the afternoon of Thursday, January 10, and I spent the whole day (approximately 10 am to 4 pm) at the Art Camp with a few forays into the wider RTR on Friday the 11th. On Friday, I spent most of my time organizing the supply tent. I managed to conduct five interviews while at the RTR.

I know I’ve been saying this for a couple of years, but I probably won’t attend the next RTR. I can do without the stress and expense involved in getting to Quartzsite in order to camp near strangers. I haven’t been to a seminar since 2015, I’m not interested in meeting people to caravan with, most of my friends don’t go to the RTR, and I don’t need any new long-distances friendships.

That said, I think the RTR is an invaluable resource for a lot of people. Folks considering living nomadically or beginning a nomadic life can get a wonderful education at the RTR seminars. Nomads who feel isolated and want to make connections with other people living similarly can meet scores of people at the RTR. Meeting new people can lead to friendships, caravans, collaborations, and sometimes even romance. I encourage all nomads who find the idea of the RTR even remotely appealing to brave the crowds and attend at least once.

Another Good Man Gone

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William died some time ago, but I haven’t been ready to share my thoughts and feelings about him and his passing with the world.

I knew William from the Bridge. He was a good man. He was one of the area’s native people, one of those Indians, he always called himself with pride. He sold at the Bridge, alone when I first new him, then later with his mother.

When I was homeless and sleeping in a picnic pavilion at a rest area, William was one of the few men I wasn’t afraid of. He and another nice guy named Tommy set up next to each other every day and could always scoot over just a little to make room for me. William always treated me politely, respectfully, as a friend.

William struggled with alcoholism during the more than five years I knew him. His mother thought he was doing ok if he only drank beer. She pretended his drinking 18 cans of Bud Light nearly every day was no cause for concern. If he was only drinking beer with a low alcohol content, she could believe the amount he drank wasn’t an issue.

Some days I got really annoyed with William. When he was drunk, he’d lie to the tourists at the Bridge. If visitors saw him with beer can in hand or at lip, he’d tell them it was his birthday, which he thought would make it ok to be drinking alcohol in public, at work. If the birthday fib let to a sale, all the better. He told potential buyers that he collected all the rocks on his tables and polished them too, even though I knew all his rocks came from other vendors. He even bragged about collecting rocks from other people’s mining claims; I was almost positive he’d never done any such things and was only repeating stories he’d heard from unscrupulous rock guys. I suppose he thought claim jumping sounded exciting and was a good story for the tourists. In the end, I realized it wasn’t my place to get upset by William’s lies; he was only doing what he thought he had to do to earn the money he needed to live.

William had been elected vice-president of the Bridge vendors association and was so proud of his position, even though in reality it meant very little to anyone else. I’m the president of all of this, he’d tell tourists while gesturing broadly. Sometimes he’d boast I’m the president of this whole bridge.

He was also proud of the times he’d stopped people from jumping off the Bridge. I never witnessed him doing such a thing, but William had stories about stopping people from jumping by hugging them or tackling them or ushering them back to solid ground. Even if none of these events actually occurred, in his heart, William wanted to save everyone who was sad, distraught, suicidal. In his heart, William surely wanted to be a hero.

William had a daughter. He’d become a father when he was just 18. The girl grew up in California with her mother who William said had a drug problem. The daughter was barely an adult when William died, but at least she had a dad throughout her childhood. I think of that girl and my heart aches for her. How difficult it must have been for her to grow up with a father suffering from alcoholism and a mother suffering from drug addition. I wonder if she’s following in her family traditions or if she thinks it best to remain a teetotaler.

When I was around, friends would occasionally try to talk to William about his drinking. Of course, he didn’t want to discuss the problem. I’m just me! William would proclaim, or he’d say loudly I do what I do! He didn’t think he could be anyone other than who he already was. He didn’t think he could do anything other than what he already did.

Sometimes when I saw and heard William interacting with tourists, I wondered uncharitably how he could stand to be a stereotype. I guess like many of us, he just wasn’t ready to be someone else or do anything different.

I’m not sure exactly how William died. I was in California when it happened, working on top of a mountain. I learned about William’s death from Facebook, that twenty-first century town crier. William had been sent to live with his aunt in the city. In the past, this aunt had been able to impose discipline (and sobriety, I suppose) on William when his mother could not. I don’t know if his aunt cut off his supply of beer entirely and the cold turkey sobering up killed him, or if it was just too late for him to benefit from ceasing to drink alcohol because his liver was already shot. In any case, the family is proud to say William was sober when he died.

William was a father and a son and a nephew and a brother and a friend. Like the rest of us, he had his faults and his stumbling blocks, but he was a good man. He loved the Denver Broncos and his daughter and selling at the Bridge. In his way, he really was the president of the whole place. He cared about the other vendors and the tourists who visited there too. He only wanted to love everyone. He only wanted everyone to get along.

By way of farewell, he’d tell vendors and tourists alike, Love, peace, and hair grease. When I remember William, I picture him standing in front of me, sunglasses on, swaying slightly, and I can hear him say, Love, peace, and hair grease.

William was a good man, and he is missed.

Love, peace, and hair grease, William. I hope you are healthy and whole and free now, soaring above us all, an eagle in the sky.

Bald Eagle Flying Under Blue Sky during Daytime

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/bald-eagle-flying-under-blue-sky-during-daytime-60086/.