I Know You Understand

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Around 7:30 on the Wednesday night before Independence Day Weekend, I got two sets of campers within ten minutes. I’d thought I’d have an empty campground again, but suddenly I had company.

The second camper pulled in before the first group had settled on a site, before I could collect money from them or write a permit.

I walked up to the car parked by the sign board where the driver was probably looking for the amount of the camping fee. I said hello and asked if she (for the the driver–the lone person in the car–was a woman who appeared to be in her 50s) was looking for a place to camp for the night.

She said she didn’t want to camp–she didn’t have a tent–she wanted to park–she slept in her car.

I was confused for a moment, but then I realized we don’t have rules against car camping. It doesn’t matter to me if a camper sleeps in a tent or in a car or on the picnic table as long as s/he is quiet and doesn’t burn the place down or cause other trouble.

I told her it was fine if she slept in her car, that the campsite fee was $20. She told me she was happy to pay it.

Then she told me she was here to be with the sequoias. She said she’d had open heart surgery six weeks earlier to repair a birth defect. She said she was recovering from the surgery and had decided that the most important thing she could do for her health was to be with the sequoias. She was planning to go to the trail the next morning and spend the day with the trees.

Then she looked directly at me and said, I know you understand.

Yes, I told her, I do.

I believe these trees are deeply nurturing and deeply healing. I know they are ancient, and I believe they are wise, in a tree way, although perhaps not in a way that humans can truly understand. I believe these trees can heal mentally and emotionally, so why not physically? Our mental, emotional, and physical states are all connected, so healing one state should help heal the others.

If I’d had open heart surgery recently, I’d probably want to sit with the sequoias too, and let their healing powers flow through me.

I did understand, but how did she know I did? I’m kind of undercover here in my camp host uniform, not exactly letting my freak flag fly. Somehow she took one look at me and knew I’d understand her. Being recognized that way was a wonderful feeling; it’s such a comfort to be known.

I saw her at the parking lot the next day. I arrived at work just as she was preparing to leave. She remembered my name. She said she’d been with the sequoias all day.

As she was about to pull her car out of the parking lot, she called me over and offered me one of her (delicious!) breakfast cookies.

I said, Hang on! I have something for you too!

I intended to grab a piece of rose quartz that’s been bouncing around on the floor of the van since before I left the city. Instead, remembering a lesson I learned about giving the best I’ve got, I grabbed my really lovely chunk of rose quartz from the console in the front of the van.

I took this photo of the piece of rose quartz I gave away.

I took this photo of the piece of rose quartz I gave away.

I handed it to her through her driver’s side window and told her it was rose quartz, the stone of unconditional love and infinite and peace.

She said, I know what it is.

She said she was going to sleep with it on her heart. I told her I’d done exactly the same thing with it. I told her it has really good energy, that sometimes I’d put it on my forehead to calm me down when I was too agitated to sleep.

She was crying and she said, You gave me this to heal my heart!

I hadn’t thought it out and decided I’ll give this woman a piece of rose quartz to heal her heart, but rose quartz is healing, and it is all about the heart, so I guess she was right.

Sometimes I’m blessed with understanding I don’t even know I have.

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I took this photo of a giant sequoia.

To find out how I came into possession of that piece of rose quartz, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/08/22/give-the-best-youve-got-a-lesson-in-giving-from-neotribal-the-gathering/.

Tips for the New Traveler: How to Handle Your First Big Trip (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post by Catherine Workman is all about how to have a great time on your very first big trip. You’ll get tips on everything from packing to getting your vehicle ready for the road. If you are a new traveler, this post is a great place to start planning for a successful trip.

Photo via Pixabay

Traveling across the nation or to a new country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Such a trip can offer a chance to be independent and strike out on your own. A big trip can be a bit overwhelming, especially for folks who’ve never been away from home for an extended period of time. Not only is there homesickness to worry about, but it’s also important to try to prevent or plan for any travel issues that might make the trip more difficult. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to plan for your journey and stay safe, calm, and on-budget the entire time. Start making preparations well ahead of time so you can find the best deals on accommodations and activities, and get to know the details of your chosen mode of transportation. For instance, if you’ll be driving, make sure you understand your insurance policy and research the rules of the road along your route, as laws vary by state.

Here are a few tips to help get you started on your journey.

Become Familiar with Your Insurance Policy

If you’re going to be driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to review your insurance policy before you leave, especially if it’s time for renewal. If you’re still on your parents’ plan due to age, that’s probably your best bet cost-wise. If you’re switching to your own policy, note that if you’re younger than 25, your premiums could be high. However, if you’re at least 20 years old and have four years that reflect a good driving record, you might be eligible for a discount. If you already have liability coverage, now is the time to consider expanding that coverage, especially if you’re hitting the road for an indefinite period of time. You want enough insurance to protect yourself financially (repairs, medical bills, etc.) should you get into an accident. You also want coverage that will reimburse you in the event of storm damage or vandalism. When you’re far from home, you’ll be glad to know you’re covered no matter what happens during the trip.

Get to Know Your Vehicle

Taking a road trip can be great fun…until the car breaks down in an unfamiliar city. You can save yourself a lot of grief and hassle if you do some research on your vehicle before you leave. Find out all you can about your vehicle, including gas mileage and interior space. If you have the manual that came with your vehicle, read it cover to cover.

For safety purposes, you should also know how to check your car’s battery, tires, brakes, A/C, and electrical system before you travel, to ensure that nothing needs to be fixed or replaced. If you don’t have the skills to check everything before you go, drop by your mechanic’s shop and get the vehicle a check-up before you hit the road.

It’s especially important to do some homework if you’re going to rent a car, so read up on the pros and cons regarding your options.

Decide On Transportation and Accommodations

The two costliest aspects of most trips are your transportation and accommodations. Fortunately, if you are staying in the US, you are not limited to flying or driving long distances. Don’t count out traveling by rail or bus if you don’t want to drive. Similarly, if you can give yourself a few extra days, you can make the drive part of your adventure. You also have many accommodation options at home and abroad. Instead of a hotel, look for private rental. While these will not always come with the conveniences of a Marriott or Hilton, you’ll have access to a kitchen and plenty of space to relax.

Budget Well

Taking a trip of any kind can become costly, so it’s crucial that you budget and remain on track as closely as possible. Take into account the true cost of the trip, from your meals to your accommodations, and look for discounts online that will help you save money on your expenses. Keep in mind that it’s best not to travel with a lot of cash, but if you do, learn how to keep it safe. Always have an emergency contact in case you lose your wallet or have your purse stolen. 

Pack Like a Pro

No two types of trips require the same attire, gear, or accessories. Make sure that your suitcase is filled with only the items that you will actually need for your excursion. If you are going to the beach, for example, two swimsuits, an extra pair of flip-flops, and plenty of sunscreen are a must.

A mountain hiking vacation will necessitate things like hiking boots, an emergency poncho, a weather-proof backpack, and, most importantly, a compass and paper map so you are prepared if your phone’s GPS goes off-line. No matter where you go, you will need your ID and, if you are traveling out of the country, a passport, which you should apply for at least three months before your departure.

Don’t Be Afraid of Last-Minute Travel

Conventional wisdom says the sooner you book, the better off you’ll be. While you can usually get great deals by booking months ahead of time, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy a last-minute getaway without paying a premium. When you get down to the 72-hour-ahead mark, call your preferred accommodations, airline, or other transportation and ask if they have discounts on open seats. Waiting until a few days before is also a good way to get rock-bottom prices on cruises, especially in the off-season when stateroom availability is plentiful.

Expect the Unexpected

When you’re traveling to a new place for the first time, it can be surprising to see and experience so many differences from home. Keep in mind that each area has its own personality, and you may have to adjust to new cultures, new food and drink, and new languages depending on where you travel to. If you go into it with an open mind, you can ensure a good time and lots of great memories. If you have an issue with stress, panic disorder, or anxiety, bring along comfort items, and consider using meditation to help you relax.

Traveling a long distance for the first time can be liberating and fun, but it can also be stressful, especially if you suffer from anxiety or if you’ve never been away from home for an extended time. Take precautions to ensure your safety is a priority, and plan well in advance so there won’t be any surprises when you’re away from home. A little planning can go a long way!

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

You Are Here

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We sold maps at the Mercantile where I worked, but most people wanted to look at them without actually purchasing them. One of the maps we sold was produced by the Forest Service and between Memorial Day weekend when the Mercantile opened and the middle of July, the price went up from $12.99 to $20. The other map we sold was better, easier to read, and only cost $12.95. When we ran out of those and the store’s buyer couldn’t contact the publishing company, The Big Boss man ordered some form Amazon, and the price jumped to $20. Just like the law of supply and demand I’d learned about in my high school free enterprise class predicted, we were suddenly selling significantly fewer maps.

One Friday morning, a large extended family came into the Mercantile. A boy of about 14 asked to see a map. The other clerk pulled one out of the display case where we’d started keeping them to prevent theft (our computerized inventory said we had two more maps than were actually in the store, so we knew some had been stolen) and manhandling by people who had no intention of buying. The boy said he was looking for waterfalls, but I don’t know if he was able to locate any on the map.

Model Figure Standing on MapDoes this map say “You are here”? he asked and he unfolded it.

Well, no, I said. If it did, the words would have to keep moving around as you moved through the forest.

The kid looked at me blankly.

I tried again. Only a stationary map will say “You are here,” I told him, but he continued to look at me blankly. I wondered if he knew what “stationary” meant.

Only a map that doesn’t move can say “You are here,” I said, and not a glimmer of understanding flickered across the kid’s face.

I gave up. I was too busy trying to watch out for shoplifters  and helping people find sizes to explain that a paper map moving through time and space with a person has no way to update “You are here” to reflect where a person is at any given moment. With paper maps, explorers must figure out “You are here” on their own.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-cartography-close-up-concept-408503/.

The Moment You Realize You Picked the Wrong Sugar Daddy

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The guy must have been at least 60. His beard, neatly trimmed close to his face, was completely white. He wore a ball cap and t-shirt and shorts.

The woman was younger, no older than 35, slender and going for a neo-hippie look. She wore a golden tunic with long sleeves over tight pants. The tunic was form fitting, made from fabric that seemed a little thicker than the warmth of the day warranted. Her dark hair was straight and hung below her shoulders. She had no bangs, but she did have a beaded headband tied around her forehead. I suspect quite a bit of thought had gone into her outfit, which seemed a little too pulled together for an afternoon in the woods. (The beaded headband really made it seem like she was trying too hard.)

The guy walked in first and asked if he could park in the lot outside the Mercantile.

5 Us Dollar BanknoteSure, I told him. There’s a $5 access fee. You can take care of that right here, I said as I reached under the counter for a day pass.

Since when do you charge for parking? the old man asked. I could tell he was not down with paying to park.

I’ve been here four seasons, I answered, and there’s been a parking fee as long as I’ve been here. If there’s no attendant on duty, it’s on the honor system. You put your payment in a self-pay envelope and drop it in the iron ranger.

Usually when I say honor system to old guys who’ve visited the trail before and not paid for parking, they shut up because they know they’ve behaved dishonorably and don‘t want to admit their moral failing. Not this guy. He just kept fussing about having to pay the whole time he did so.

The young woman came in during the access fee transaction. From the way they spoke to each other, I could tell they knew each other, but I couldn’t determine their relationship. The age difference suggested father and daughter, but that’s not the vibe I was getting from them.

The young woman began exclaiming over how expensive everything was. Maybe, like me, she is accustomed to shopping in thrift stores. We sold t-shirts as low as $18.95 and ball caps for as low as $16.95, not excessive prices for souvenirs on top of a mountain in California as far as I could tell.

I always wondered about people who complained about prices right in front of me. What did they hope to accomplish? Did they hope I’d haggle with them, offer them a better price? I always wanted to tell them I didn’t set the price, I couldn’t change the price, and I didn’t want to hear their bellyaching about the price. Instead, I just kept my mouth shut and felt uncomfortable.

The couple (not a couple?) left, but the young woman soon returned. She said she needed water and walked over to the beverage cooler where she studied the price list.

$2.50 for a bottle of water? she exclaimed.

That’s right, I said mildly.

I believe $2.50 for a 16.9 ounce bottle of water was wildly overpriced. I think it’s wrong to overcharge people so steeply for a basic human necessity, especially since packs of 24 bottles of that size could be purchased most anywhere in the valley for under $5. It seemed wrong to me to charge $2.50 for something that cost $.20 (or less!), even considering it was hauled up the mountain and keept cool. Charging $1.50 or $1.75 would be pricey, but understandable, but $2.50 just seemed greedy, especially for water. Sure, jack up the price for Gatorade or iced tea or potato chips—things people don’t need—but don’t screw people on the water. However, no one I worked for asked my opinion on the price of water, and when I offered it anyway, I was largely ignored.

Of course, this young woman with her neo-hippie headband had no way of knowing who set the prices or how I felt about them. I suppose I could have explained myself, but really, I just wanted her to buy her water (or not) and be on her way.

About that time, the old man walked back into the Mercantile. You getting some water? he asked the young Clear Disposable Bottle on Black Surfacewoman.

It’s $2.50! the woman exclaimed. I just really can’t afford that right now, she told him melodramatically.

She must have told him at least three more times, I just really can’t afford that right now before the old man reluctantly asked, Do you want me to get water for you?

I don’t know if she could tell, but I sure knew he didn’t want to spend $2.50 on a bottle of water for her.

The gallons are $3.95, I said helpfully. Personally, I’d rather spend $3.95 for 128 ounces of water instead of $2.50 for 16.9 ounces of water.

The old man bought the gallon.

I never did figure out the relationship between the old man and the young woman, but if she was hoping he’d be her sugar daddy, well, I felt sorry for her. I’ve never had a sugar daddy, but I know a good one should be generous with money, not complaining about having to pay $5 to park and being slow to take the hint about buying water.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/abraham-lincoln-american-dollar-banknote-cash-259258/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/clear-disposable-bottle-on-black-surface-1000084/.

Review of a Book I Didn’t Like: Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You

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Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You: A Memoir
I like to read. I love to read. Books have saved my life on more than one occasion. But sometimes books fuck me up too. Case in point, Millions of Women Are Waiting to Meet You by Sean Thomas.

I’d never heard of this book until I was poking around on BookMooch, looking for books to request. I saw a listing for this book, and the premise of the true story of internet dating from a man’s point of view seemed interesting. So I mooched the book. Then I read the book. Then I wrote the following review.

This book depressed the fuck out of me. It depressed me as in I don’t want to ever wake up because them I’m going to have to get out of this bed and deal with this awful world we live in.

It all starts harmlessly enough. The author is single. The author writes for Men’s Health magazine. The author’s boss tells him to write an article about internet dating. The author researches internet dating for the article by actually dating women he meets through dating websites.

The book is written in a sort of chatty, tell-all style. Each chapter relates not only to the author’s current dating dilemma, but to the author’s history of dating, love, and sex.

I thought the book was funny. I laughed out loud many times while reading it.

It’s also easy to read. I tore through it in about twenty-four hours (including a slow work day).

But when I finished reading it, I wished I’d never picked it up.

The author wants the reader to think he’s a nice guy. He wants the reader to wonder how a guy as nice as the author can be nearly 40 years old and still single. When he starts sharing his most private thoughts, the reader comes to understand why the author is almost 40 and still single. The author is almost 40 and still single because he is a cad. (Need a quick example of his dishonorable behavior? As he is contemplating dating a Chinese woman, he writes, “At least Asian girls will do the dishes.” I suppose that was meant to be funny.)

The first hint of the author’s boorish ways is his obsession with female beauty and body parts. He mentions the beauty of every woman he wants to meet. He mentions the breasts of nearly every woman he dates. He doesn’t enjoy a particular date because the woman involved misses her homeland and is maudlin and teary throughout the evening. However, she has a great “arse,” so the author thinks he really should see her again. The obsession with physicality gets a bit ridiculous when the author rejects a woman he seems to get along well with because she’s only a few inches shorter than he is. Maybe you’re alone, you idiot, I wanted to tell him, because you’re too concerned with how women look.

He says he likes short, thin women. He enjoys feeling as if he can protect them. (I wouldn’t trust this guy to protect me from a mosquito.) Apparently, he likes to be with small women so he can feel big and strong. (He refers to his “caveman” brain way too much.) It turns out that not only does he like small women, he likes young women. When he was in his early 20s, he was sexually and romantically involved with a young woman who was only 17. Then, when he was thirty, he was sexually and romantically involved with another seventeen year-old woman child. (His math concerning this relationship was a little confusing. He claims he got together with this woman when she was 17, was with her on and off for five years, then broke up when she was twenty.) Maybe he likes to be with young women because he’s immature. Maybe he likes them so he can dominate them and push them around. I don’t know. But maybe he ends up single because his girlfriends grow up and move on when they decide they want to try new things.

As we get deeper into the author’s story, we learn he has been involved in not one, not two, but three unplanned pregnancies. Ummm, condoms? Keep it in your pants? But apparently not, because then he’s involved in a paternity kerfuffle.

He frequents prostitutes, which I don’t think is necessarily morally wrong, except he frequents prostitutes in developing countries where women have limited economic choices. Sex slavery…how enticing. What really pissed me off was the sentence where he refers to “the whore my American friend had in Kenya.” The words “whore” and “had” make it all seem so ugly. If men are going to pay for sex, they should be respectful of the sex workers (even when the sex workers aren’t around to hear what the men have to say). But I guess one of the reasons (some) men pay for sex is so they don’t have to be respectful of the women they’re fucking.

I thought the most interesting chapter in the book is the one dedicated to the author’s foray into internet porn. I knew little about internet porn. I didn’t know people stream their live sex acts so other people can watch. I didn’t realize people watch “normal” folks have sex. The author didn’t know those things either. Of course, he spends so much time viewing internet porn that he ends up in the hospital. (No joke.)

So yeah. The author is a cad. But he’s an honest cad, and he shares with the reader everything that goes on in that cad brain of his. And you know, I appreciate honesty. And I support the author’s right to live his fucked up life the way that makes him happy. (Although he doesn’t seem happy through most of this book.) I even support him writing a book about it all. I’m just sorry his book fell into my hands. And I’m sorry that it was funny and well-written enough to keep me reading it. Because if the book jacket is right and this is “a book that reveals what men really think about love, sex, and dating,” a bunch of us ugly, fat, middle age (and older) woman are doomed to be alone. But after reading this book, I’m certain that being alone is preferable to being with this guy or someone of his ilk.

10 Things You Might Want to Know About Van Organization

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I’ve learned a few things about van organization in the last 3+ years (and the last 3+ months). I wish I’d known the following things before I started life as a van dweller. If you’ve not yet started a life of van dwelling, you may want to contemplate these things before you begin. If you’re already van dwelling, well, it’s never to late to learn something new, right?

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This photo shows how I use binder clips to attach things to decorative wood strips.

#1 If you have an old-school conversion van, look for anything decorative you can rip out to free up a little more room. In my van, the first thing to go was the last captains chair in the back. I can’t believe it took me over a year to rip out the pieces of wood housing cup holders and ashtrays (which I couldn’t see, much less use, because of the tubs and drawers pushed up against them). By ripping out those useless, stained pieces of wood, I gained six to eight inches, which is immense to a van dweller. BUT before you start ripping things out, try to imagine how you could use the decorative touches that are there. I use binder clips to hang things from flat strips of wood that maybe looked nice in 1992 when the van was new.

#2 If you live alone in a van, you may not need a double bed. If you have a bench seat in the back, the bed it folds down into will likely not be very comfortable unless you top it with several inches of memory foam or something similar. You might be better off pulling out the bed that came in the van and putting in something smaller, unless you’re holding out hope of getting laid. You’ll have to decide if you want more bed space or more space for stuff. (Of course, you could also store things on the double bed–I’ve definitely gone that route.)

#3 Your bed does not have to be built strong as a bunker. Sure, you want your bed to be sturdy, but My Rock Guy proved to be brilliant when he built my bed with no attached parts. When it comes time to vacuum back there, I can remove and replace all the parts quickly, without help. I can also move the bed easily if I want to try a new floor plan.

#4 Underbed storage is really helpful. I suggest putting your bed as far off the floor as possible while still being able to sit up without hitting your head. Store things you use less often under the bed.

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This photo shows both my underbed storage and the dishpan full of books wedged under there. Yes, that’s a paper cutter to the left of the dishpan full of books. Doesn’t everyone travel with a paper cutter under the bed?

#5 Containers typically need covers. Baskets may be super cute, but without a cover, the stuff inside is likely to end up on the floor. (My one exception was a plastic dishpan full of books  wedged under my bed. I’ve since bought a tub with a lid to put those books in, not because the books were ending up all over the floor, but because I needed the tub to lift my sloping bed.)

#6 I resisted for two years, but I find drawers really are easier to live with than using 18 gallon tubs for storage. Having to move the top tub to get to the bottom tub was a perpetual pain in my ass. Finding a place to set the top tub was often nearly impossible in my already overcrowded van. Locating an item that had settled to the bottom of an 18 gallon tub was usually an exercise in frustration. Yes, plastic drawers are stupidly expensive, but I think they make my life easier.

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This is my camp stove, set up in the van on a plastic tub for cooking. Usually my laptop backpack is on top of this tub, but the backpack is easy enough to move when it’s time to cook. When I’m cooking indoors, I always make sure a window is open. I’m also careful to keep flammables away from flame.

#7 You will probably want a flat surface in the van for cooking. Even if you usually cook outside, there will likely come a time when it’s rainy or too cold or the wind is blowing at gale force or you just can’t bring yourself to put on pants and you want (or need) to cook inside (even if “cooking” is simply heating water for instant Ramen). At such times, life is much easier if there is a flat surface on which you can set up your camp stove.

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This photo shows bags, jewelry, and my sun hat hanging from shower curtain hooks that I have wedged in between the wall of the van and decorative wood.

#8 Wall space can be utilized by hanging as much as possible. (This is another good tip from My Rock Guy. He says when he lived in vans, he stored his clothes in duffel bags, which he hung.) If my shower curtain hook method doesn’t work for you, you can figure out something else that will.

#9 Many people who live in small spaces have a rule that every item they own must have two purposes. This rule has never really worked for me. I can quickly name ten important things in my van that only have one use (sunhat, ice chest, stove, propane bottles, heater, Luci light, screwdriver, pee bucket, cast iron skillet, sandals…you get the idea…) I understand the reasoning behind this rule: you don’t want to haul around a bunch of stuff you don’t need. But I don’t think the “two use” rule is actually very helpful.

#10 You are probably not going to get your van arranged in the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing way on the first try. Trial and error will probably be involved. Maybe you’ll decide I’m all wrong and drawers don’t work nearly as well as tubs. Maybe you’ll decide the wheels on your ice chest take up too much space. (I took the wheels off my ice chest last month, after living with them in the way for over a year. I thought it would be a hassle, so I didn’t even try for the longest time. Taking them off turned out to be really easy.) Maybe you’ll decide you only need two pairs of pants and two t-shirts, so you only need one medium drawer instead of three large one. I suggest you give yourself permission to make mistakes, change your mind, and try new things.

Bonus! #11 It may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You’ll probably save money if you shop at thrift stores and garage sales before you buy brand new things. If you’re in a town with a Habitat for Humanity Restore, look there for household items that might work in your van. Have patience. If you can, give things a chance to show up cheap or free before you rush out and buy new stuff at full price.

I took all the photos in this post.

Coleman Triton Series 2-Burner Stove, 22,000 BTUs

Give the Best You’ve Got: A Lesson in Giving from NeoTribal The Gathering

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As NeoTribal The Gathering was winding down, I thought I should give some little thank you gift to Ms. Reiki in appreciation for all the work she’d put into making the festival happen. I grabbed one of my bigger chunks of rose quartz and walked towards her camp.

I’d picked up a nice piece of rose quartz, but it wasn’t a fantastic piece of rose quartz. I still had several pieces from the 1/3 full bucket of South Dakota rose quartz I’d gotten for a good price at a Colorado gem and mineral show. I’d sold and given away a lot of those stones and had more than made my money back. Giving a piece of what I had left was not a sacrifice.

I went up to Ms. Reiki and said a few little words: Thank you. Blah blah. Appreciate. Blah blah. For you, and gave her the stone. She was excited and thanked me, reached onto her table and picked up a piece of rose quartz larger and cooler than the one I’d just given her. She handed the stone to me and said it was for me! She said she knew it was time to pass it on, and she wanted me to have it!

I was touched. And dumbstruck. And I felt like an asshole.

I’d given her something nice, but basically extra, and she turned around and bestowed upon me something really special and beautiful. I knew I should have given her something better, but it was too late. If I came back to her with a nicer gift, it would have looked as if I were trying to show her up.

This is the piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me. (Photo by me)

This is the piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me. (Photo by me)

It wasn’t too long, though, before I got to give my best.

I’d packed up all my merchandise, taken down my tent, and hauled everything except my big tub of rocks to my van. That tub of rocks is heavy! I knew it would take me forever to carry it to the van alone, and I’d probably hurt myself in the process. I thought earlier that I’d offer one of the guys who’d been hanging out in the grass next to my area a $5 ammonite to help me move the rocks, but by the time I was ready to make my offer, they’d wandered off.

I looked around and saw a young fellow I’d sold a couple of stones to earlier in the weekend. He’d bought a piece of malachite from Bisbee and another green/blue shiny rock I’d never heard of before from Mexico. He’s fastened them to his hood (like the hood of a cape or cloak, but without the robe part). He came back to my both to show me how it looked when he had finished the project. It had turned out really cool, and he seemed like a nice guy.

I asked him if he’d help me carry my box of rocks, didn’t mention any kind of exchange or payment, and he said yes. We hauled the box up to the van, and in the moment before he turned to leave, I reached into the rock box and pulled out one of my biggest, nicest, iridescent ammonites. I handed it to him, told him it was for him, and thanked him for his help.

He freaked out! He was so pleased with the ammonite. He threw his arms around me, thanked me, then bounded off to show it to his friend.

I think maybe I got it right that time.

The piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me is the one I passed on to the woman who’d recently had open heart surgery. I wrote about the woman and the rock here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=i+know+you+understand.

Twenty Dollars

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My shift at the fuel center where I was working was ending soon, and I couldn’t have been happier. I was so ready to get out of there!

A customer walked up to the window of the kiosk. I stood on the other side of the bulletproof glass, ready to help him.

How can I help you today? I asked through the intercom system.

His reply was garbled, but I did understand him to say twenty dollars. He opened the glass over the drawer and put something inside.

What pump are you on, sir? I asked.

He replied, Twenty dollars! The look on his face and the tone of his voice told me he was already agitated.

Yes, sir, I said. And what pump are you on?

I heard him open the Plexiglass over the drawer roughly and grab whatever he’d put in earlier. The whole drawer rattled. He held up his $20 bill to the window and shook it while yelling twenty dollars! His whole face contorted. He looked like a madman. He was obviously really angry.

I leaned down and put my mouth right next to the intercom. I spoke slowly and (I hoped) clearly.

Yes, sir, but I need to know what pump you’re on.

Oh, sorry, he said as his face relaxed. He looked like a totally different person. He put the money back in the drawer and said in a normal tone of voice, Pump 10.

I took his $20 bill from the drawer and sent him on his way to get his fuel from pump 10.

Lost

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I was selling my jewelry and shiny rocks at an outdoor market near a tourist attraction on a Sunday afternoon. The sky was overcast, the air chilly, the wind strong. There weren’t many shoppers, so I was able to give my attention to each person who stopped at my table.

I saw an older man spending a lot of time with the vendor next to me. Good for him, I thought of the other vendor. On such a slow day, I was glad for anyone who made a sale.

The fellow finished his business with the vendor next to me and made his way to my table. He was older than I am, maybe by twenty years, but he seemed to be in good shape. He walked easily without a cane and didn’t seem to be beaten down by life.

I said hello to him, but before I could tell him about my merchandise, he blurted out, I lost my wife.

At first I thought he meant he and his wife were there at the tourist attraction together, she’d wandered off, and he didn’t know where she was at the moment. That sort of situation occurs a lot at that market. So often, while one part of a group is browsing in the market, others in the party wander off to see the natural wonder.

I was about to reassure the man I’m sure she’s around here somewhere, when he continued to speak and I realized by lost, he meant dead. I was glad to have learned more about his situation before I opened my big mouth.

She’d died nearly two years ago, he told me. He was doing better, but it was still hard, he said with a sad smile.

She was the real shopper, he continued. If she had been here, she’d have stopped at every table, wanted to buy something from every vendor.

In the past when he’d traveled alone, he’d always been on the lookout for something nice he could buy to take home to her. Now there was really no point in looking at all the beautiful things.

I’m so sorry for your loss, I murmured, but I really didn’t know what else to say. I’m often surprised by how freely stranger share their grief with me. I wonder if these people share their grief freely with everyone they meet or if they sense some kindness or understanding in me.

The tourist man didn’t spend much time at my table. He only hung around long enough to apologize for not buying anything and to tell me how his lost wife loved to shop, then he was gone. I hope I helped him through his grief a little. I wish I could have done more.

I took the photo in this post.

Lack of Linens

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There were yurts in the campground where the Mercantile was located. People could rent the yurts for $85 per night. The yurts were basically glorified tents with wooden floors and furniture. The furniture included a futon that converted from a couch into a double (or maybe a queen) bed, a bunk bed with a double bed on the bottom and a singe on top, a wooden bedside table, and a wooden rocking chair. Unlike the traditional Mongolian dwellings on which these camping structures were based, these yurts had windows with flaps outside that rolled down for privacy. There was no electricity in the yurts–or anywhere in the campground–and no running water within a ten mile radius. The yurts were also without heat. Even so, the half dozen yurts in the campground were booked nearly every weekend and often during the week too.

A green yurt with a brown door is covered with a dusting of snow. Snow is on the ground in the foreground and trees are in the background.
Yurt in the snow

I could understand the appeal. Some people don’t want to sleep on the cold, cold ground. (I sure as heck don’t!) Some people have physical limitations that make sleeping on the ground impossible. Some people are too afraid of spiders, snakes, bugs, and other critters to even contemplate sleeping on the ground with them. The yurts were sort of a middle ground between sleeping in a tent or not going camping at all.

Not only were the yurts lacking in electricity, running water, and heat, no linens were provided for the beds. This lack of bedding was a practical consideration. Sheets and blankets and pillow cases would have to be changed between guests, and the nearest place to the campground to do laundry was 25 mountain miles away. Each yurt would need a minimum of two sets of sheets and blankets for each bed so fresh linens would be available even in the event of back-to-back check ins. Someone (probably the already overworked camp host) would have to drive the dirty bedding the 50 mile round trip to the tiny laundromat with one one coin operated washer and one coin operated dryer. That person would likely have to spend a whole day loading linens into washer/out of washer, into dryer/out of dryer, then folding, folding, folding. Providing linens just wasn’t practical, so the yurts were strictly BYOB (Bring Your Own Bedding).

Whenever visitors in the Mercantile asked me about the yurts (and multiple people asked every week), I always explained that folks who stayed in the yurts had to provide their own bedding, either sheets and blankets or sleeping bags, I spelled it out for them.

Unfortunately, the reservation website doesn’t spell things out for campers quite as well as I did. While the website gives the (questionably punctuated) information


No Pets, No cooking or No smoking allowed in the Yurts[,]


it doesn’t say anything about bedding not being provided. Ooops! Hopefully when a person actually reserves a yurt, the reservation information includes details on the lack of bed linens.

Many visitors to the mountains don’t understand that the higher they go in elevation, the cooler the temperature will be be, especially at night. Sometimes people staying in the yurts brought bedding, but not enough of it to stay warm. The camp hosts in 2016 were super sweet and lived in a converted school bus with plenty of room, so they would loan their personal extra bedding to yurt dwellers who were cold. I appreciated their generosity (as I’m sure the campers did too), but I would never loan my blankets to strangers. First of all, when I live in my van, I don’t have room for extras. Secondly, sometimes people are harboring bugs! Besides, campers should plan ahead and prepare for all eventualities, even if they are going to sleep in a yurt. Yurts are a bit sturdier than regular tents, and the walls are a bit thicker, but not by much.

Javier and Sandra, the camp hosts my last year on the mountain were nice people too, but they were also vandwellers without room to spare for extra bedding. When campers arrived unprepared for their night in a yurt, there was nothing the camp hosts could offer but sympathy.

One evening I was hanging out with Javier and Sandra on their campsite when a European couple arrived. There was some discussion I couldn’t hear between the man who’d been driving and Sandra. I did hear Sandra say they should find the yurt and she’d be over before dark to do the check-in paperwork. The couple drove off, and I began saying my good-byes so Sandra and Javier could finish their work before they ran out of daylight.

Before I could leave the host site, the European man had driven back to the front of the campground and was asking about bedding. The mattresses in the yurt were bare, he said, and they hadn’t brought any linens. Did Sandra and Javier have any sheets and blankets they could use?

Javier and Sandra shook their heads. No. Sorry. Linens were not provided in the yurts.

The fellow wanted to know what they should do.

I asked if they had sleeping bags. I thought maybe if their itinerary included actual camping at some point they might have camping gear.

The fellow said no. They hadn’t brought sleeping bags. Then he asked if there was any place nearby that might sell bedding.

I told him the Mercantile had sold out of both sleeping bags and blankets. If there had been anything useful in the store and if he could pay cash and if he didn’t need change, I would have unlocked the door and helped him out. However, during the last cold snap, unprepared campers had wiped us out of all things warm.

Sandra told him there was a general store about 25 miles away that maybe sold sleeping bags, but she didn’t know if the store was open so late in the day. She also mentioned the store 35 miles away in the opposite direction that sold outdoor supplies. Maybe that store had sleeping bags.

The European man stood and stared at us in disbelief.

Of course there’s Wal-Mart, Javier said. He explained it was at the bottom of the mountain and about 60 miles from the campground.

It was obvious the camper didn’t want to drive 25 miles (and back!), much less 60. He just stood there and looked at us, and Sandra kept repeating that she was sorry. Finally the camper got back in his car and drove to the yurt where he and the lady would be spending a chilly night. At least they might have enjoyed the cuddling they probably had to do to stay warm.

Having never reserved a yurt, I don’t know if the reservation paperwork spelled out the lack of linens and if it did, how prominently that information was displayed. I do know if I were paying to stay anywhere other than a conventional hotel or motel, I would find out if bedding was included instead of assuming it was.

I took the photo in this post.