Category Archives: FYI

What Is a Rubber Tramp?

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I first heard the term “rubber tramp” in 2010. The guy who was my boyfriend at the time and I were talking to a young woman traveler. We told her we lived in our van and traveled around.

Oh, you’re rubber tramps, she said enthusiastically.

I was new to the lingo of traveling kids, so I asked my boyfriend later what she meant. He said a rubber tramps was a particular kind of traveler who lived in a vehicle. The rubber in question was that on the vehicle’s tires. As for the tramp part, well, he didn’t have to explain that.

According to an answer given by Belarafon on enotes, a homework help website, in regards to the book Into the Wild, a rubber tramp is something of the opposite of a leather tramp.

Brown and Black Leather Work Boots on Brown SurfaceA rubber tramp has a car or other wheeled vehicle, and travels on the rubber tires. A leather tramp has no vehicle, and travels on foot, shoes often being made of leather. The distinction comes from both ease of travel — a rubber tramp is more able to decide destination than one who relies on hitchhiking — and and an unofficial status: rubber tramps are sometimes seen as “less valid” than leather tramps because their vehicle is viewed as a luxury item.

Of course, I’ve never in my whole life heard of anyone referred to as a “leather tramp.” Nobody calls them that, The Man exclaimed when I shared this definition with him. You’d just call them a bum!

According to the Cyber Hobo website, people who consider themselves tramps might not like The Man referring to them as bums. The Hobo Terms page says a tramp is “[a] migratory non-worker” while a bum is

[a] non-migratory non-worker; [a] worthless or dissolute loafer who would rather beg than work for goods or services; [l]owest in the “hobo hierarchy.

The Cyber Hobo also weighs in on the definition of “rubber tramp.”

Rubber tramp – A tramp who owns a car, usually rusted out and undependable. They spend a lot of energy begging for gas money, but also provide transportation to other cities to bums, hobos and tramps for a fee. In a sense, they become a nationwide “taxi” service for transients.

I’m not sure where this definition originated (Cyber Hobo gives no sources), but I don’t know anything about rubber tramps being any kind of “nationwide ‘taxi’ service.” Personally, I have never charged a bum, hobo, tramp, traveler, hitchhiker, or dirty kid for a ride. I have accepted gas money from riders in my van, but I’ve never expected or demanded a fee from anyone I’ve let ride with me.

The Man says that in his experience, while rubber tramps may not charge folks a fee for a ride, there is an expectation of riders contributing to the common good. Each rider is expected to pitch in by flying a sign or panhandling for money and food or gas jugging and everyone sharing the fruits of the labor.

Did you know there is a Nomad Wiki which gives “info and tips for nomads about shoestring budget traveling”? I didn’t either until I started working on this post. The Nomad Wiki glossary gives the same definition of a rubber tramp as Belerafon did on enotes: car or other wheeled vehicle, rubber tires, possibly less valid because vehicle is seen as a luxury.

Of course, we have to check in with Urban Dictionary to see how kids these days define “rubber tramp.” Three definitions are shared.

[Top definition by RYM~Taistealaí with 154 thumbs up votes and 32 thumbs down votes] A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.).  They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.

[Second most popular definition by Starwatcher with 21 thumbs up votes and 153 thumbs down votes]  A person that lives in, and creeps around in a vehicle that looks like it’s barely held together with rubber bands, chewing gum, and chicken wire. They’re often seen parked in the back of supermarket parking lots, or hanging around public parks, alleys, shelters, welfare offices or liquor stores.

Most of the time, the person also looks as completely worn out as the vehicle does.

[Least popular definition by Follow your wanderlust with only 6 thumbs up votes but 0 thumbs down votes] A person that lives full time in their RV or Van and works and lives on the road to explore and follow their wanderlust.

I couldn’t find any information as to when the term “rubber tramp” was first used either verbally or in print. I know somebody keeps track of that sort of thing, but I sure couldn’t find anything online. I suppose I should put a reference librarian or an an etymologist on the case.

I also want to point out that not all people who travel in vehicles or live on the road appreciate being referred to Man With Luggage on Road during Sunsetas “tramps.” In the United States in the 21st century, the word “tramp” often has a negative connotation. According to Wikipedia, “tramp” has become something of a bad word.

Like “hobo” and “bum,” the word “tramp” is considered vulgar in American English usage, having been subsumed in more polite contexts by words such as “homeless person” or “vagrant.”

At the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I noticed many people referring to themselves and others as nomads. “Nomad” is a fine word, and I use it myself. Some definitions of the word (like the first one from Merriam-Webster) reference seasonality and a defined territory, but others (like the second one from Merriam-Webster) only refers to roaming about. Other synonyms I like for “rubber tramp” are van dweller, vagabond, traveler, rambler, and wanderer.

As for me, when I renamed my blog, I chose to call myself a rubber tramp because I didn’t want to sanitize my situation. While I do like those synonyms that I listed above, I thought “rubber tramp” conveyed some grittiness, conveyed my poverty and hand-to-mouth existence. I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m anything more than I am: a woman with a van (and now a 40+ year old beat up stationary fifth wheel in the desert for winter living), thrift store clothes, and scavenged art supplies.

Photos of vans were taken by me. Other images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-and-black-leather-work-boots-on-brown-surface-60619/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-with-luggage-on-road-during-sunset-163688/.

New Mexico State Parks Pass

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The New Mexico State Parks Pass, also known as the New Mexico Annual Camping Permit, is a great deal for anyone who wants to spend more than month exploring the state and staying in the campgrounds of its state parks. The Man and I both bought New Mexico State Parks Passes in the fall of 2017 and camped at several of the state parks campgrounds separately and together.

I’ll tell you everything I know about the New Mexico State Parks Pass (abbreviated to NMSPP in the rest of this article) so you can decide if it’s right for you.

As of late November 2018 when I’m writing this article, the fees, permits, and rentals page  of the New Mexico State Parks website gives the following price breakdown for the pass:

Sunset in the day use area at Brantley Lake State Park.

New Mexico Resident (Proof of New Mexico I.D. and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $180

New Mexico Resident *Senior, 62+ (Proof of Age and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $100

New Mexico Resident *Disabled (Proof of disability required.) $100

Out-of-State Resident (Proof of I.D. and Vehicle License Plate Number are required at time of purchase.) $225

If you lose your annual camping permit, no problem! You can get a replacement for only $10.

If you are a resident of New Mexico with a disability, there are several things you can use to prove  your disability to the satisfaction of the folks at the New Mexico State Parks. See the aforementioned fees, permits, and rentals page to find out what documents you need to get your reduced-rate permit.

Primitive camping at Brantley Lake State Park

Permits for seniors and folks with disabilities can only be purchased at the New Mexico State Parks’ Santa Fe Office, located at 1220 S St Francis Drive #215 or at any  New Mexico State Park Visitor Center. The passes for New Mexico residents and out-of-state residents can also be purchased online. I purchased my pass in person at the visitor center at Leasburg Dam State Park, so I don’t know if there are any extra charges for buying the pass online.

If you have a NMSPP, you can camp in any primitive camping area (usual cost: $8 per night) or on any developed camping area with no hookups (usual cost: $10 per night) in a New Mexico state park for no additional charge. According to the aforementioned fees, permits, and rentals page,

Primitive campsites offer no special facilities except a cleared area for camping. Sites may include trash cans, chemical toilets or parking.

Primitive camping also offer no designated sites. You’re basically boondocking when you camp in a primitive area at a New Mexico State Park.

I’ve camped in primitive camping areas at Caballo Lake State Park, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, and Brantley Lake State Park. In both of those parks, primitive camping was lakeside. I also witnessed primitive camping next to the lake at Bluewater Lake State Park. Although the primitive areas offer few or no amenities, campers are welcome to venture into other areas of the park and use the water spigots, restrooms, showers, and dumpsters if such facilities are available. (To find out what amenities are at each park, take a look at the printable New Mexico State Parks brochure.)

The developed camping areas typically offer a fire ring and a picnic table. Sometimes the developed areas offer

This is what the developed campsites look like at Brantley Lake State Park. Beware: At this park, ALL developed sites have electric hookups, so if you plan to stay in the campground, you’re going to have to pony up $4 a night, even if you have the NMSPP.

shade covers too.These campsites tend to be in campgrounds, closer to toilets (either flush or pit, depending on where you are) and sources of potable water. I’ve stayed on developed sites at Brantley Lake State Park, Percha Dam State Park, Elephant Butte State Park, Rockhound State Park, Leasburg Dam State Park, and Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. The Man spent some nights at City of Rocks State Park; while I have visited that park during the day (and think it’s a gorgeous place), I’ve never had the pleasure of camping there.

Your NMSPP does NOT provide for free electric or sewage hookups. If you have the annual camping permit and want an electric hookup, it will cost you an additional $4 per night. A sewage hookup if you have an annual camping permit will also cost an additional $4 per night. If you have the annual camping permit and you want both an electric and sewage hookup, that will set you back $8 per night. New Mexico State Parks do not charge for water hookups where they are available.

According to the New Mexico State Parks page devoted to camping,

Sunset over Oliver Lee State Park.

Campers may reside in a park for a maximum of 14 days during a 20 day period. Campers shall completely remove camping equipment and gear from the park for 7 calendar days during the 20 day period.

Here’s what that means if you have a NMSPP. You can stay in any New Mexico State Park for up to 14 days, then you have to leave that park. However, you can go directly to another New Mexico State park and stay there (for free if you camp in a primitive area or on a developed site with no hookups) for seven days, then turn around and go back to the park you left a week ago.

If you wanted to save money on gas, you could stay in an area where there are state parks not too far from each other (such as Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Caballo Lake State Park, and Percha Dam State Park) and go in a circuit from one to another, staying two weeks at each.

This was my view of Caballo Lake when I stayed in the primitive camping area of the state park.

The NMSPP is good for only one vehicle per site. I called the New Mexico State Parks main office to make sure I understood this point correctly. I was hoping that even though The Man and I have separate vehicles, we could share one pass. No go! However, when we were camping together at Leasburg Dam State Park, there was only one developed campsite with no hookups available, and we were allowed to have both of our rigs on the site with no problem. (Note: I had a Chevy G20 and the man had a Honda Odyssey, so both rigs fit easily on the site, facilitating our sharing of the space.)

I bought my NMSPP early in November 2017. When I bought it, the park ranger gave me a sticker to attach on my windshield. This sticker showed that I was a pass holder and it gave the expiration date of my pass. At the time I purchased my pass, there was space for the month and the year the pass expired. (The passes may be configured differently, depending on when you read this post.) My pass said it expired 11-18 (November 2018). I didn’t think to ask at the time, so I again called the New Mexico State Parks main office to find out if that pass expired on the first day of the month noted on it, or the last day. The answer: the last day! So even though I’d bought my pass early in November 2017, it was good through the last day of the month in 2018.

The campground at Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM.

I think that’s everything I know about the New Mexico State Parks Pass. If you have questions on topics I didn’t cover, I strongly encourage you to call the New Mexico State Parks main office at 505-476-3355. I’ve called the office several times with questions and the woman who answered the phone was always exceptionally pleasant and helpful. Talking to her was always a joy.

The information included in this post is subject to change, especially the information on prices. Blaize Sun is not responsible if the information she gave you is no longer applicable when you read this post; this information is a starting point. Everything was correct to the best of her knowledge when the post was written. You are strongly urged to call the New Mexico State Parks office or check internet sources for updated information.

So much cool at City of Rocks State Park.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Lingo

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If you’re a newbie attending the Women’s RTR at the end of the week or the RTR in the next two weeks, you may hear a lot of new terms. For the sake of public education, I decided to run this post from January 2016 again after revising and updating it.
/ˈliNGɡō/

noun

informal humorous

the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people

I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!

I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.

Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.

I boondocked on this BLM land.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.

Boondocking–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondocking interchangeably with dry camping, while others differentiate between the two and use boondocking only in relation to public land. To learn all about boondocking, read my post “10 Fundamentals for Boondockers.” My friend Coyote Sue calls dry camping in a parking lot blacktop boondocking .

Canned hamA trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side.

CasitaBrand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer.

*Class ARV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motor home.

*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.

*Class C—motor home with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.

CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, a fantastic online resource for anyone living on the road, no matter what kind of rig is involved. There’s also a Cheap RV Living YouTube channel for folks who’d rather watch videos.

I did some dispersed camping on Bureau of Reclaimation Land in New Mexico, and this was the view of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping or boondocking.

Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondocking.

*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.

Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road all the time.

*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.

Motor home–An RV that has a motor in it so it can be driven; a motor home can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C.

Mr. Buddy–A brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.

Nomad–According to Merriam-Webster, this is a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory; an individual who roams about.

Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in a stationary home sometimes.

PopupA type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport.

The Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico is public land.

Public Land–Land owned by a local, state, or federal government. When rubber tramps and other nomads talk about public land, they typically mean land open to (usually free) camping. Public land can include city or county parks, fishing lakes, BLM land, Bureau of Reclamation Land, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national seashores and lakeshores.

Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.

This was my rig during one part of my life as a full-time rubber tramp/vandweller.

Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV.  A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C motor home. A rig can be a combination of a tow vehicle and a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup.

Rubber tramp–The Urban Dictionary says a rubber tramp is a “person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.” Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.

RTArt Camp–A camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, The RTArt Camp is a place within the larger gathering for nomadic artists and creative nomads to come together to share skills, create art together, have fun, and build community.

Rubber Tramp Art Community (RTAC)–An intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. Members of the group meet to camp together, create art together, teach each other new skills, help each other, and spend time together as a community.

So far, I’ve attended four RTRs.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Also see Cheap RV Living for more info about the RTR.

RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motor homes, 5th wheels, and travel trailers.


Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to Wikipedia,, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)

*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.

Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with men is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.

Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. Check out Cheap RV Living for “Bob’s 12 Commandants for Stealth Parking in the City” and “Stealth Parking Locations.”

Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.

Teardropa streamlined, compact, lightweight traveltrailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.

Toad–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.

Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.

*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.

During my time as a camp host, I cleaned this pit (or vault) toilet many times.

*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.

Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land; basically a tall plastic toilet set over a hole where the waste products sit until they are pumped out.

*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.

What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.

I took all the photos in this post.

The Big Tent in Quartzsite, AZ

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Seems like it always happens when folks start discussing winter in Quartzsite, Arizona. Someone mentions the Big Tent, and someone else says What’s that? Other folks in the conversation jump in and start trying to explain things and mayhem occurs.

Ok, so I’ve never actually seen mayhem occur during a discussion of the Big Tent, but I know that lots of people who’ve never been to Quartzsite in the winter aren’t quite sure what it’s all about. In the interest of public information, I’ve made today bonus blog Saturday, and  I’ll again share what I wrote about the Big Tent in 2015 and 2016. You’re welcome.

“The Big Tent” is what folks call it, but the actual name of the event is The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. It’s been held every year since 1984, although the location within the town has changed several times. People travel to Quartzsite in their RVs (motor homes, vans, campers, fifth wheels, etc.) from all over the country to enjoy the warm Arizona weather and see what’s new in the Big Tent.

The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show  started with 60 exhibitors and a small tent. In 2015 it had grown to a 69,000 square foot fully carpeted indoor exhibit area at 700 South Central Blvd.

In 2015 the Big Tent was open January 17th through 25th. I visited it on the Saturday opening day and on Tuesday the 20th.

I went to the Big Tent the first time because I was trying to get a job as a camp host. I’d arrived at the tent about ten minutes early, but nobody was getting in early that morning. The line started moving at exactly nine o’clock. By the time I got inside, the place was already packed.

I wasn’t surprised to see RV park booths, RV insurance booths, booths staffed with folks trying to convince people to drive their RVs north to Canada and south to Mexico. I wasn’t surprised to see an Arizona State Parks booth, a KOA campground booth, and a Good Sam’s Club booth.

Several casinos had booths too, complete with wheels to spin. Spin the wheel, win a prize, but not until one coughed up one’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. I tried to win several times but scored nothing more memorable than multiple decks of cards.

Several booths were dedicated to recruiting work campers. One of those booths belonged to Workamper News, the website to check out (I was told at the RTR) to get hooked up with work camping opportunities. Amazon.com was present, recruiting for its CamperForce. The sugar beet harvest people were there too, and I had a nice talk with a very pleasant man from the Midwest, but quickly realized that sugar beet harvest work is too strenuous for me. Several companies looking to hire camp hosts were also in the Big Tent.

I was surprised to see multiple booths selling pillows. I understand that RVers use pillows. But why would someone buy pillows at at sports, vacation, and RV show? Wal-Mart sells pillows. Kmart sells pillows. Sears and JCPenney and probably the freakin’ Family Dollar sell pillows. Pillows can be ordered from Amazon.com. Why were these RV show pillows so special? I don’t know because I did not stop at any of the many pillow booths and discuss the desirability of their pillows.

On a related note, the funniest thing I saw in a booth was a man lying in a bed on a platform a couple of feet off the floor. He was selling some special RV bedding, and he was demonstrating this bedding by lying in a bed. The big come-on with this bedding was that one wouldn’t have to make the bed if one had this bedding. Basically, the bedding was a double sleeping bag placed on top of a mattress. There was no tucking of sheets and blankets because this item was a blanket pouch. Is making an RV bed so difficult that people would rather sleep in a double sleeping bag? In any case, whenever I saw this grown man lying down in bed while trying to convince people to buy his wares, it cracked me up. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera to take his photo.

I was also surprised to see people in so many booths trying to sell kitchen gadgets. I do understand that RVs have kitchens, which might lead RVers to buy kitchen gadgets, but it seems like those items too are available in just about any regular store. Do people get caught up in the frenzy of shopping at the Big Tent, only to wake up to reality later and find their yellow freebie KOA tote bag full of silicone bowl covers and long skinny plastic chip clips?

The least explicable booths were those selling makeup, hand creme, and jewelry (especially an “ion” bracelet some lady tried to slip on my wrist). I didn’t stop at any of those booths, but from my cruise past, I didn’t see anything that looked unique or revolutionary.

My favorite booth was the one run by Minute Rice. There was a wheel to spin and prizes to win. When I spun the wheel, it stopped on “emery board.” Boring! However, the nice ladies were also giving out two-packs of the precooked, microwaveable rice. There was even a choice: white, brown, or jasmine. And they didn’t want my email address!

I know I mentioned it was crowded in that tent, but let me just say again, the place was packed. At one point, the crowd in the aisle was at a complete standstill. There was a tall young man next to me, and I asked him what he saw up ahead. He said it was just a bunch of people standing still. As soon as I made it out of that quagmire (without ever seeing a reason for movement to have ceased), I ducked out of the next exit door into the sunshine. There were more booths on the outside around the perimeter of the Big Tent, but nothing held my attention long enough for me to stop.

When I went back the following Tuesday (because I was in the area to purchase items from several of the booths in the Tyson Wells shopping area), the Big Tent was mostly the same. The Minute Rice ladies were gone (they must have run out of rice), but I made up for it by playing a couple of fun and silly games at the Progressive booth, where the workers were a bunch of young gals dressed like Flo! There (thankfully) weren’t as many people in the Big Tent, so we all had a little more elbow room.

As I left the area, I decided The Big Tent (like Mardi Gras) is definitely something to see once, if one is in the right place at the right time. I wasn’t sure I’d visit the Big Tent again, but I knew if I did, it wouldn’t be on opening day. I hoped if I did go back, I’d own a working camera so I could get a photo of that man in the bed.

In 2016, I did visit the Big Tent again, but not on opening day. There was no need for that. I wasn’t looking for a summer job because I already had one lined up, and I wanted to avoid filling the van with unnecessary items, even if they were freebies. I believe I went on the Wednesday after opening day, on my last day in Quartzsite.

Again, no one was being let in before the official opening time of 9am. I milled about outside the north entrance with the other early birds. While I was waiting, I got a text from my friend Tina who was at the Big Tent to look for a job. She met me at the north entrance, and we walked in together at nine on the dot.

There weren’t very many people browsing through the tent that day, so there was plenty of elbow room.

We hadn’t gotten past very many booths when  a guy working for Direct TV tried to waylay us. Who provides cable in your home? the guy asked. Oh, I said casually, I don’t have a home. Tina snickered and the guy was quietly confused just long enough for us to escape.

The next guy who tried to interrupt our rambling was in a booth with hair-salon chairs. He called out aggressively, Ladies, what appliances do you use to style your hair? I told him, I don’t style my hair. It does whatever it wants. He didn’t know what to say to that, and we walked on.

One good-looking young East Indian man with a British accent drew me right into his booth. It was a large booth, and there were several salespeople in it trying to sell reusable heating pads. The pads were pretty cool There was a metal disc in them and when the disc was clicked, the goo inside the pad got hot. The pads could also be used cold by placing them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The young man was trying REALLY hard to sell the product to me. I finally had to tell him I wasn’t going to buy anything, but said he was doing a great job. We sort of squeezed each other’s hand in farewell, which made me a little giddy.

Sign next to a bottle reads "Micro-Blaze Industrial Grade Microbes for Home Septic & RV Black & Gray Water Tanks."


I got excited when I saw a sign with my name on it. Well, it was sort of my name. When I asked the man standing behind the table if I could take a photo of the sign, he insisted on putting the product beside it. Well, ok. I tried to explain to him that my name is Blaize, and I like to take photos of signs with my name on it. He only seemed concerned with showing off the product, which I guess makes sense because it’s his job to sell the stuff. I know nothing about the quality of Micro-Blaze, so I cannot recommend it. However, readers, you now know it exists.

Just down from the Micro-Blaze booth, I saw the salesman I’d been thinking about all year, the man selling RV bedding.

This is the sad sounding RV bedding salesman (identifying features removed). Sometimes when I stay in bed for days at a time, I feel depressed. Maybe this guy really needed to get out in the sunshine.

In 2015, I sadly had no camera to take a photo of the salesman and his wares, but in 2016, I was prepared. I walked up to the man and said hi. He said hi to me and started telling me about his special sheets. He sounded super sad. He sounded like a robotic recording. He sounded like a super sad robotic recording. The way he gave his speech about his special RV bedding did not make me want to buy his product. The way he gave his speech almost made me want to cry. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or if he was just generally tired, but his enthusiasm level was way low. I asked him if I could take his photo, and he said yes.

This guy, even though he seemed really down, was the high point of the Big Tent for me. I walked around after I talked to him, got a bright yellow (and cheaply made) tote bag from KOA and played a sort of slot machine game with the Flo lookalikes at the Progressive booth, but nothing made me happier than finally getting a photo of that guy.

Now you know a little bit about what goes on at the Big Tent so you can decide for yourself if you want to check it out.

This post was drawn from two previous posts, “The Big Tent” and “The Big Tent, 2016.” I took the photos in this post.



Where to Go for What You Need in Quartzsite (Part 2)

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You’re in Quartzsite and you have needs: goods, services, information, entertainment. Who’s going to tell you how to find what you need? Look no further than the Rubber Tramp Artist, who’s visited Quartzsite six times since January of 2015. This handy list (and the one that preceded it on Wednesday) will help you find everything you need during your stay in what the town’s website calls “The Rock Capital of the World.”

Laundry

Of course, the best known laundromat in Quartzsite is probably the Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E Main Street). I did laundry there once, and it was a fine experience, nothing exceptional or special. I did like that it opened at 6 am so I could get my clothes washed and dried early in the day.

Other laundromats in Quartzsite include Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central), about which their website says, “Longest running dryer time for your money” and “Somebody is always on site to help.” Google also lists Palm Plaza Laundromat (225 N. Central Blvd.) and Bud’s Suds (543 W. Main Street).

Trash Disposal

Most grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and gas stations in Quartzsite have trash cans out front. If you have a small bag of trash, dispose of it while filling your gas tank or as you walk into a store or restaurant. If you rather collect your trash in large bags or if you have accumulated several days worth of trash, you may need to visit the dump, aka the Quartzsite Transfer Station. The dump is located north of town on Highway 95; the phone number is 928-669-8886. According to the Wastebits website, the hours of operation are Sunday through Wednesday from  7:30 am to 2:30 pm. I forgot to say it at first, but a reader reminded me that there is no charge to dump your trash at the Quartzsite Transfer Station; the service is FREE!

Outdoor Recreation

There’s a lot to do in the 40 acre Quartzsite Town Park. Google reviewers listed the following amenities within the park: mini tennis, basketball court, horseshoe pits, two covered play structures for younger and older kids, dog park, skate park, bike course, motto x course, plenty of shaded tables, baseball diamond, grassless football/soccer field, small R/C car track, model airplane strip, and a dance slab. In 2017 during a visit to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, I also saw a disc golf course out there.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens are within Quartzsite Town Park. Within those eight acres, one can find a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants; an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens called The Hero’s Bell Garden; a palm tree plaza; an area with mining equipment donated by the BLM; the RVing Women memorial area; Adamsville, a miniature village; and memorials to Quarzsite folks who have passed away.

Winter is a great time to be outdoors in Quartzsite, so go have some fun in this huge recreation area. Just don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of drinking water! The desert is no joke, even in the winter.

Quartzsite History

In 2015 I visited the Tyson Well Stage Station Museum (161 West Main Street). Admission was free (and it still is, according to the museum’s website), so it was worth the visit, but I can’t say I was impressed by the exhibits. I thought there was too much stuff crammed into too small a space. Many pieces were on display with no explanation as to why they were there. Of course, the museum could have changed for the better in the last few years, so I urge history buffs to check it out.

Said to be the most visited location in Quartzsite, the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery is an interesting place to visit, especially for history buffs. According to the Quartzsite website,

The Hi Jolly Cemetery is operated and maintained by the Town of Quartzsite for the purposes of providing a cemetery, historic site and park. The Hi Jolly monument is in the pioneer section of the cemetery where Quartzsite’s pioneer families were and are laid to rest. There is a new section to the cemetery also for those who chose to be interred in Quartzsite.

In the spring of 2015, I stopped at the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery on my way to California. I picked up a booklet with a map of the graveyard at the cemetery’s information kiosk. The booklet offered biographical information about many of the people buried in the cemetery. If you can get your hands on a copy of that booklet, you can learn a LOT about the non-native people who settled Quartzsite.

Thrift Stores

Whenever I go to a town, I like to browse the thrift stores to see what goodies are available. I don’t need much more stuff in my life, but I do like to look.

As far as I know, there are three thrift stores in Quartzsite.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store (101 Moon Mountain Rd.) is across the street from the Isaiah 58 Project. Parking is in the gravel lot in front of the store. It has a small selection of mass-market paperbacks, cheap VHS tapes, and a few CDs. There is usually a large selection of housewares, pots and pans, plates and glasses. The selection of linens and pillows tends to be small, and the items seem well used. The shoes available also tend to be well used, and I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size. Prices are reasonable. Most clothing costs a dollar or two per piece. Many things in the housewares section are 50 cents to $1. Small toys are very inexpensive, as are greeting cards.

The Quartzsite Community Thrift Store (7 Showplace Lane) is located near the end of the street that runs along the side of Silly Al’s pizza place. The parking lot is also gravel and in front of the store. The store offers some higher-end decorative items near the front of the store. The price of women’s clothing seems to start around $2; I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size either. I have found good prices on yarn at this store—50 cents to $1 a roll. There’s a decent-sized selection of books in the second room, as well as mostly inexpensive housewares and a small selection of well-used linens.

The Animal Refuge Thrift Store is on the other side of town, east of Central (Highway 95), on the south side of Main Street. In 2016, the store was filled with only the best merchandise, and the higher prices reflected the nicer inventory. Since I’m never really looking for higher end items, I haven’t been back to this thrift store since my visit several years ago.

Entertainment

I don’t go out much, so I can’t say too much about where to find live music or dancing or other entertainment in Quartzsite. If such things appeal to you, I highly recommend you check out the calendar of the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA). In the words of the group’s website, the QIA is

a non profit, community based, volunteer group of people wanting to help the Quartzsite area and all the wonderful visitors we get here every year.

The calendar shows the group’s scheduled events, trade shows, dances, classes and, of course, their biggest event of the year, the gem and mineral show called the PowWow. If you want to exercise, listen to live music, play bingo, learn Spanish, or dance, check out what the QIA has to offer.

Another place to go for fun and fellowship is the Quartzsite Senior Center (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenu). According to the RV Quartzsite.com website, the senior center

also has lots of activities for snowbirds and show visitors.

Lunch and Cards – Monday through Friday year round

Quilters – October to March

Dances – Tuesdays and Fridays, December to February

Bingo – Wednesdays and Saturdays, December to March

Art Guild – 1st and 3rd Thursdays, September to March

Craft Fair – 3rd Friday, November to March 9 am – 1 pm

If you are interested in any of these activities or want to know what special events might be in the works at the senior center, give them a call at 928-927-6496.

When part 1 of this post ran on Wednesday, someone on Facebook said I had “forgot to mention the 3 most popular places…” in Quartzsite. Those places are apparently Beer Belly’s Adult Daycare (121 W Kuehn Street), Silly Al’s Pizza (175 W Main Street), and Quartzsite Yacht Club Restaurant Bar and Grill (1090 W Main Street). I’ve never been to any of these places, so I don’t know how much entertainment any of these places offer. A friend of mine told me last year that the food at Silly Al’s is really good; maybe I’ll get to try it someday.

Shiny Rocks

Where won’t you find shiny rocks in Quartzsite in the winter? Both Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn St.) and Desert Gardens Internationale Rock, Gem and Mineral Show (1050 Kuhen Street) are good places to look for gems and minerals. The official Tyson Wells Rock & Gem show will be held January 4th-13th, 2019; show hours are 9am to 5pm each day.

If you like shiny rocks, don’t miss the QIA PowWow (235 Ironwood St.) running January 16 through January 20, 2019.

. The QIA website says,

This annual Show has vendors coming from all over the world. We have over 520 vendor display areas inside & outside the building in our huge parking lot area. There are 50+ Showcases on display inside the building of beautiful gems, minerals and jewelry…

All the merchandise displayed by vendors must be 75% gem, mineral or jewelry related.

Penny Press

I only know of one penny press in Quartzsite. It’s at the gift shop at Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn Street). They call it a penny pincher, but it works just like a penny press: put in your two quarters and a penny and get yourself a sourvenir pressed penny embossed with the words “Quartzsite, Arizona.”

I hope my knowledge of Quartzsite helps you find the things you want and need while you are there.

I’ve not been compensated for mentioning any of the businesses included in this post. All the information shared is based on my own experiences and what I found on the internet. Please do your own research, including calling businesses to determine if the information I shared is accurate and if the services I mentioned meet your needs. You are responsible for your own self. I’m not responsible for you. I apologize for any information that is no longer accurate, but offer this post to you as a starting point.

I took all the photos in this post.

Where to Go for What You Need in Quartzsite (Part 1)

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Congratulations! You’ve made it to Quartzsite, AZ. Maybe you’re going to spend weeks or months at one of the BLM Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs). Maybe you’re in town for two weeks of fun, learning, and fellowship at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Maybe you’re going to stay for one night or two weeks at one of the free BLM camping areas on your way to Yuma or Phoenix or Tucson. In any case, you’re in Quartzsite and you need some things. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, refer this handy list and let the Rubber Tramp Artist (a six-time visitor to Quartzsite) help you find what you need while you’re in town.

Food and Ice

Quartzsite has two main grocery stores, the Roadrunner Market (200 E. Main) and Coyote Fresh Food (410 E Main). Both sell ice and fresh produce and both charge small-town prices. Family Dollar (470 E. Main) and Dollar General (925 W. Main) also sell food, mostly prepackaged items, but also dairy and maybe eggs. Ice can also be found at most of the town’s gas stations, including the Love’s (760 S. Quartzsite Ave.) and Pilot (1201 W. Main).

Big Market (775 W. Main) also sells food. I have only been in the store once and was not impressed. The people who wrote reviews of this place on Yelp didn’t seem too impressed either. I think Big Market is more of a place to buy alcohol and firewood than food, but I would be glad to hear about positive experiences readers had here.

If you don’t mind buying packaged food that is recently (or not-so-recently) expired, check out the temporary “scratch and dent” food stores in town. Housed in tents, they sell everything from breakfast cereal in torn boxes, beans in dented cans, and expired everything. There’s usually one in the shopping area near the main post office, but I like the one closest to the Big Tent because their prices are low.

Free Breakfast

If you’re hungry in the mornings, go down to La Mesa RV to get free pancakes and coffee. La Mesa RV (at the IMG_4469corner of Main and Central) is in the business of selling (you guessed it!) recreational vehicles. A marketing ploy the company uses to get people on their Quartzsite lot is a free pancake breakfast six mornings a week (Monday through Saturday) from 8am to 10am.

The first time one arrives for breakfast, one must go up to the counter and fill out a card. The card has blanks for one’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. (I’ve never provided my phone number or email address and was never challenged about my omissions.) After the blanks are filled in, a woman working the counter writes one’s name on a nametag and hands it over. The nametag lasts all season, and one is required to wear it whenever one wants to eat breakfast.

Food Banks

If you’re poor and you need food, there’s no shame in visiting one of Quartzsite’s two food banks, the People’s Food Bank at the Isaiah 58 Project (100 S. Moon Mountain Avenue) and the Quartzsite Food Bank (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenue). I’ve been treated with respect and compassion at both of these food banks.

The Quartzsite Food Bank is open Tuesday and Thursday from 8am to noon. This food bank is run by a private nonprofit organization called Friends of the Quartzsite Food Bank. A representative of the organization asked me to let readers know the group accepts all donations of money or food to help them keep the doors open so they can feed hungry people.

In January of 2018 when I went to the Isaiah 58 Project food bank, they didn’t ask for any sort of ID or income verification. At the Quartzsite Food Bank, they did ask to see my ID, and I had to fill out an intake form. When they asked for my address, I simply told them I was camping on BLM land near town. At that time each of these food banks would give a person food twice a month, so it  was possible to get food every week if necessary. I would confirm current policies either in person or by telephone. (The phone number for the Isaiah 58 Project is 928-927-3124. The phone number for the Quartzsite Food Bank is 928-927-5479.)

Water

The last time I was in Quartzsite, there were water filling stations throughout town. There was a Glacier Water refill station in front of the Family Dollar and another one in front of Big Market. There was a water filling station that didn’t seem to be affiliated with any national brand near the gas station adjacent to the Burger King. RV Pit Stop (425 N. Central Blvd.) has filling stations for filtered and reverse osmosis water. Most of these water filling stations in Quartzsite charge 20 or 25 cents per gallon.

Propane

When I wrote this post (11-19-18), the RV Pit Stop website was advertising propane refills for $2.30 per gallon + tax. I bought propane there the last time I was in town and was satisfied with the service. Rose RV Park (600 E. Kuehn St. ) also advertises propane refills. Google shows Pattie’s Propane (455 E. Main St.) as a propane supplier in Quartzsite, and while I’ve passed by, I’ve never gotten a refill there. While looking for information on laundromats in Quartzsite, I also found a listing for Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central); propane is what they “fill-r-up” with.

If you’d rather do a propane tank exchange through Blue Rhino, the company propane finder page says you can do that at Big Market, RV Pit Stop, and at the Arco gas station (185 N. Riggles Avenue).

https://i1.wp.com/www.rubbertrampartist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/IMG_4459.jpgBooks

If you want to find reading material and possibly see a nudist, Reader’s Oasis Books is the place for you. Owned by naturist Paul Winer, Reader’s Oasis (690 E. Main) is huge and stuffed full of books and handwritten signs and pictures and shiny rocks and memorabilia. There is a lot to see in that store. The selection is broad, from 3 for $1 romance novels to military history to old-school children’s books to cookbooks to books on religion to books pertaining specifically to the Southwest. The bookmark I ended up buying (featuring a photo of Paul with his thumb up and sporting a big beard and shades; wearing multiple turquoise necklaces, a straw hat, and a bit of cloth over his privates) boasts over 180,000 titles, and I believe it. If you buy nothing else, splurge on a bookmark with Paul’s picture on it; otherwise the folks back home may never believe you.

The other place for books in Quartzsite is the public library (465 Plymouth Road). The library’s website says that folks who aren’t residents of Quartzsite can get a library card by presenting their photo ID. Using the library’s books, audio tapes, computers, videos and magazines is free.

The public library is also THE place in town to find public access computers with internet capabilities. You can bring your own laptop or tablet into the library and try to use their WiFi, but I’ve found that an exercise in frustration. In my experience, WiFi in the entire town of Quartzsite is slow, slow, slow, and it’s no different at the public library.

Forget about plugging your electronics in at the library to charge. A friend of mine did that a few years ago and told me a library worker accused him of stealing electricity. Wowza!

The Quartzsite Public Library is open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. It is closed Saturday, Sunday, & holidays.

Mail

You can get your mail at the Quartzsite post office (80 W. Main), but unless you rent a box there (and I don’t even know if that’s possible if you don’t live in the town), it’s going to be a huge pain in the neck. You can have your mail delivered via general delivery, but that mail can only be picked up on weekdays and only during specific hours. People arrive and get in line long before they can actually pick up their general delivery mail because when the pickup time is over, it’s OVER, no matter how many people are still standing in line.

An online review of the post office in Quartzsite says, “[g]eneral delivery must be preapproved or they will return to sender immediately. Pickups can only be done from 12 to 1.” I’m not sure those two assertions are true; I’ve never heard the first one, and I thought general delivery pickup was from 11am to 1pm. If I were going to try to get my mail via general delivery in Quartzsite, I would call the post office (928-927-6323) and get all the details before I told anyone to send me mail that way.

If I were going to receive mail in Quartzsite, I would much rather do so through Quiet Times (90 E. Main). In 2017, I had 100 copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods delivered to Quiet Times. I called ahead (928-927-8081) and was told exactly what address to use to make sure my packages got to the right place. For a very reasonable price (I think it was $10), Quiet Times received two (or was it three?) large boxes and held them for me until I could pick them up.

I’m not certain if Quiet Times receives mail sent through the USPS or only items sent through FedEx and UPS. I suggest you call now before Quartzsite turns into an absolute circus and find out if they provide the service you need, and if so, exactly what address you should give to people sending you mail. The folks who work at Quiet Times are very nice and patient and will be glad to give you all the necessary information.

On the day this post was originally published, I learned about another option for receiving mail in Quartzsite. A couple people in a Facebook group I’m in mentioned BCM Mail and Ship (852 W Cowell Street), which is apparently behind the senior center. One of the people who gets her mail there says customers pay a flat rate for the month, and there is no additional charge for receiving packages. Unfortunately, none of the links to BCM’s website worked for me, so all I can tell you is that the phone number for the business as listed by Google is 928-927-4213.

Showers

If you’re staying on BLM land for a few weeks and don’t have a shower set up in your rig, there are several places in Quartzsite where you can clean up. Both the Love’s and the Pilot truck stops have shower facilities, but you’re going to pay premium prices. On the upside, I’ve read that it’s ok for a couple to ask for a team shower and use one shower room at no additional charge. Also, I’ve never been hurried while showering at a truck stop or told I could use the facilities only for a limited time.

Your next option for cleaning yourself in Quartzsite is Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E. Main Street). I did my laundry there once, but I’ve never taken a shower at this location. A Google review from 10 months ago says a 20 minute shower costs $8 there, which is what I remember hearing at the last couple RTRs. I’ve also heard a worker does keep track of how long each customer has been in the shower room and will knock on the door after 20 minutes.

The third option for a shower in Quartzsite is a free one at the Isaiah 58 Project. I have taken showers there on several occasions.The last time I was in town, the showers were only available on weekday mornings from 9am until noon and were limited to 10 minutes per person. I’ve always encountered a line of people waiting to shower when I’ve gone first thing in the morning, but friends who’ve gone later in the morning have reported finding no line. The water is hot and the price is right, and in the past they’d even loan each person a towel if necessary. I definitely appreciate being about to take a shower for free, although I wish we could go 15 minutes instead of just 10.

This post has gone longer than I expected, and I still have lots more to share, so I’ll give you the rest of my information about where to go for what you need in Quartzsite on Friday.

I’ve not been compensated for mentioning any of the businesses included in this post. All the information shared is based on my own experiences and what I found on the internet. Please do your own research, including calling businesses to determine if the information I shared is accurate and if the services I mentioned meet your needs. You are responsible for your own self. I’m not responsible for you. I apologize for any information that is no longer accurate, but offer this post to you as a starting point.

I took all the photos in this post.

How to Have a Great Time at (or at Least Survive) the RTR

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So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to attend the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, Arizona on January 9-20. Congratulations! If this is your first RTR, you’re probably really excited and at least a little nervous too. When I went to my first RTR in 2015, I didn’t know a single person there! However, despite my shyness, anxiety, and tendency to be overwhelmed by crowds, I made friends I’m still close to today. I’ve attended  three more RTRs since then, and today I’ll share with you my best advice to help you learn a lot and enjoy yourself at this gathering of vandwellers, rubber tramps, RVers, nomads, vagabonds, and travelers of all kinds.

#1 Do your research now so you’ll know what to expect when you get to the RTR. This post is a great place to start, but don’t stop here. Visit the Cheap RV Living website to learn the specifics of the 2019 RTR. If you like watching videos more than you like reading, check out the Cheap RV Living YouTube channel to get updates about the 2019 RTR.  In the last couple of years, Facebook groups related to the RTR and Quartzsite have popped up. If you’re on Facebook, you might want to join  RTR Chatter  and Quartzsite Chatter. Lots of bloggers and vloggers have written about their RTR experiences, so use  your favorite search engine to find those posts. If you want my perspective, you can read about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

#2 The desert is different from the rest of the U.S. Learn about desert conditions before you arrive. A good place to start is my blog post “10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert.” Once you know what to expect in the desert, you’ll have better ideas for how to prepare.

#3 Be ready for sun, wind, rain, cold, and dust. Weather in the desert can change rapidly, and nights can be chilly or downright cold. It does rain in the desert, so bring appropriate gear for whatever weather the two weeks of the RTR bring.

#4 If you’re a woman, and especially if you are a female newbie, consider attending The Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (WRTR). This gathering will be held January 4-8 (before the main RTR) in Bouse, Arizona. The WRTR will be smaller than the main RTR, so it may be easier to meet people there, and smaller crowd may produce less anxiety. At the WRTR, you’ll learn things (like how to go to the bathroom in your rig!) that you’ll be glad to know once you get to the big gathering.

#5 Stock up on fresh food before you get to Quartzsite. Once you’re in town, you can find good deals on canned goods, snacks, and other processed foods at the multiple popup scratch & dent stores. However, Quartzsite has no big supermarket with low prices. Instead it has two grocery stores with small town prices. When I arrive at the RTR, I make sure my cooler is stocked with eggs, cheese, and produce. If you stay at the RTR for two weeks, you may have to pick up fresh groceries halfway through, but you can save some money by buying cheap before you arrive.

#6 Once you arrive at the RTR, you’re going to have to find a spot for your camp. You can be close to the main meeting area, or you can have lots of space around your camp, but you probably can’t do both. At the 2018 RTR, people camped close to the main meeting area were packed in fairly close to each other. Farther away, there was more room for people to spread out, but folks who had more room around their rigs had to walk a ways to get to seminars, the main campfire, and the free pile.

#7 Forget about privacy. Unless you are more than a mile from the main RTR meeting area, you probably won’t be able to camp entirely alone. Even if you’re able to maintain some space around your rig, you’ll probably still have neighbors close enough to see what you’re doing when you’re outside. No matter where you’re camped, expect drones to fly overhead and take photos and videos. At any official RTR event and even in your own camp, expect people to record and photograph you without permission. While organizers have discouraged filming, photographing, and recording without permission, they’ve also said there’s nothing they can do to stop it.

#8 Find your people at the RTR. Especially if you go alone or this is your first RTR, finding others with similar interests can make the gathering a less overwhelming place. If you’re the creative type, seek out the RTArt Camp. If you like to jam, camp with other musicians. In the past, school bus nomads have camped together, and in 2018 several box trucks parked all in a row. Sure, you might not be able to base an entire friendship on a shared love of finger painting or driving a similar rig, but some common thread will at least give you a conversation starter.

#9 Wearing a nametag can be a good ice breaker, At the last two RTRs, a few ladies had a button-making machine and were making nametags in exchange for a small donation to cover expenses. Some folks brought their nametags to the RTArt Camp to add bling to their button.

If you don’t want people to know your legal name, it’s a time-honored tradition to give yourself a road name. In any case, wearing a name badge can help folks remember you and what you want to be called.

#10 Get to seminars early to get a good spot where you can see and hear the action. The seminars are one of the most popular aspects of the RTR, especially for new folks. In 2018 I estimate two to three hundred people attended each seminar. Even with sound amplification, it must have been difficult for some attendees to hear. I’d plan to arrive at any seminar at least half an hour before it was scheduled to begin. Some folks leave their chairs to hold their places in the seminar area during the entire event.

#11 Drive more slowly than you think necessary.The BLM camping areas in Quartzsite are dusty places. Going more than 5 miles per hour on unpaved BLM land stirs up a lot of dust. Go super slow so the people whose camps you pass won’t hate you. Also, sometimes pets dash out of rigs and into the road. Going slow will help you avoid hitting any renegade pups or kitties.

#12 Bring earplugs for a peaceful sleep. Overall, the RTRs I’ve attended have been mostly quiet at night, but be prepared for the night you’ve parked next to someone who has to run a generator for medical reasons, your friendly neighbors linger next to the campfire laughing, or you want to go to bed early and the Boomers across the wash blast the oldies until 9:59. It’s not reasonable to expect a gathering of so many will be quiet when you need your rest, so have your ear plugs handy.

#13 If one of your RTR goals is to meet people, put yourself out there and be friendly.Walk around. Smile at people. Say hello. Ask respectful questions.

Feel awkward staring a conversation with a stranger? Here are some RTR specific opening lines:

  • Is this your first RTR?
  • Have you been to the free pile?
  • What kind of rig do you have?
  • Are you full time?
  • What seminar do you most want to attend?
  • Have you been to the RTArt Camp?
  • Are you going/have you been to the Big Tent?
  • Where’s the main campfire?
  • What are you plans for after the RTR?
  • Where did you get your nametag? (Make sure the person is actually wearing a nametage before you use this one.)

#14 Remember that it’s fine to go hide in your rig if you get overwhelmed. I’ve hidden in my rig so many times during past RTRs! There’s no shame in needing alone time to decompress and process what you’ve heard, seen, and learned. Close your curtains, breathe deeply, and relax.

#15 The RTR can be fun, exciting, overwhelming, educational, stressful, aggravating, and wonderful. Take care of your physical needs so you can cope emotionally. Drink plenty of water. Eat enough. Rest. Cry if you need to and laugh as much as you can. Exercise, but not a lot more than you’re accustomed to. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes so you can make it over the rocks, through the dust, and across the washes. I’ve found a walking stick really helps me navigate the rough terrain.

Whether it’s your first or your eighth Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, following these tips can help you make the most of this gathering of nomads from across North America. If you’re new to the RTR feel free to ask my any questions I may not have answered in this post. If you’ve been to past RTRs, leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every problem you might encounter at the RTR or anywhere in the desert. Only you are responsible for you! Do your research before you head to the RTR, use common sense, and think before you act.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

How to Find The Friends You’re Going to Camp With

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Many camping areas in remote locations have no cell phone service or internet access. Lots of folks are accustomed to having instant access to communication and are totally surprised when they arrive in their remote camping location and realize they can’t make or receive phone calls, send or receive texts, or update their social media. This lack of phone service can enhance one’s ability to hear the birds sing and to engage in uninterrupted conversation with friends and loved ones.

Lack of cell phone service can also mean it’s more difficult to find the people you plan to camp with if you come up in different vehicles at different times. Plan ahead so you can find your group. Here are six tips to help you meet up with your people once you leave civilization.

#1 If you’re meeting in a campground and have reservations you didn’t make, know the first and last name of the person who reserved the site. For example, if your brother’s girlfriend booked the site under her legal name, Elizabeth Brown, and you only know her as Liz, the camp host may not be able to direct you to the right site.

#2 Make sure you know what region, state, and county you are going to. The United States is a big place, and campground names are sometimes repeated throughout a state, region, or even throughout the country. For example, the same region of California has two Wishon campgrounds. If you’re supposed to be at the Wishon Campground at Bass Lake and instead you end up at the Wishon Campground off of Highway 190 in Tulare County, well, your weekend has started off on the wrong foot. You might have a similar problem is you’re supposed to be at the Giant Sequoia National Monument but end up in Sequoia National Park or you confuse the Sequoia National Forest with the Sierra National Forest.

#3 Know the exact name of the campground or camping area you’re going to. When I worked on the mountain, there were three campgrounds within a five mile stretch of highway that all had the word “meadow” in their names. There were also two additional meadows in the area where folks could boondock, as well as a road with the word “meadow” as part of its name.  That’s a lot of meadows! If a person didn’t know exactly what meadow to look for, it might be difficult to get to the right place.

#4 Your GPS system nay not work in a remote location either, so use a good paper map of the area to find your way around. Get your paper map and study it before you leave home. Have a good idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before you start driving. If you’re traveling with other people, designate someone with good map-reading skills to be the navigator.

#5 Plan for folks to meet at the camping spot before the sun sets. Sure, folks with jobs might want to leave work at five o’clock and get on the road so they can start the camping fun on Friday night. Maybe you’re a boondocker who likes to sleep until noon and not start driving until 3pm. If you get a late start, then get stuck in traffic or lost, you might find yourself looking for your campsite in the dark. Get on the road as early in the day as possible so you’ve got plenty of daylight to help you find your camping spot.

#6 Designate a time and place for your group to meet if everyone doesn’t show up at the camping spot. Make the meeting place a prominent location and the meeting time before dark.

Bonus Tip Meet at a location within cell phone service and caravan to the remote location together. At least if you get lost, your whole group will be lost together.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

Managing in the Mountains

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I love these mountains in Taos County, NM.

Most fulltime rubber tramps know that going up in elevation is the key to cool comfort in the heat of the summer. For every rise of 1,000 feet in altitude, the temperature falls about 3.6 degrees.  If, like me, you grew up a flatlander, you may not know the tricks to staying happy above sea level. You want to go up the mountain, but you may be a bit cautious about doing so. After spending the better part of the last five summers above 6,000 feet, I know a thing or two about mountain living, at least during the spring and summer months. Today I’ll share my tips for managing in the mountains.

#1 Know that altitude sickness is a real possibility. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve never suffered one bit of altitude sickness, but some people get it bad.

According to a comprehensive Health Communities article about altitude sickness remedies,

acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the most common type of altitude sickness. It can occur at elevations as low as 5,000 feet, where it is likely to last only a day or so, but is more common above 8,000 feet. At elevations over 10,000 feet, three out of four people will have symptoms.

The article lists these symptoms of altitude sickness:

  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat accompanying physical exertion
  • Impaired thinking.

The article also lists some precautions to you can take to acclimate to higher elevations.

  • Acclimatize and take it easy. Spend your first day at high altitudes relaxing…
  • Do not smoke and avoid drinking alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption increase the risk of dehydration and decrease respiration rate during sleep…
  • Drink extra water. Drink as much as you can to remain properly hydrated, at least three to four quarts. Your urine should be clear and copious…
  • Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates.
  • Get headache relief. Acetaminophen or an NSAID (such as ibuprofen) can be taken for headache.
  • Don’t go up until symptoms go down. If you start showing symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go any higher until they decrease—or descend a few hundred feet to a lower altitude.

I suggest you read this entire article and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of and remedies for altitude sickness before you start your ascent.

#2 In the mountains, it stays colder later in the year and gets colder sooner. Early May in Flagstaff brought a storm with a predicted high of 43 degrees and a chance for two inches of snow. The Man and I headed out before the storm to avoid the inclement weather, but we experienced chilly nights and mornings in the California Sierras until well into June. Memorial Day weekend gave us a foggy Saturday where temperatures in the Mercantile never climbed above 42 degrees. If you’re too hot in the flatlands in spring and decide to move on up, either find a camp in the middle elevations or be prepared for chilly morning and nights

Fall may come to the mountains before you expect it. It was never long after Labor Day on the mountain where I worked that I found myself sleeping under my down comforter and wearing a jacket the first few hours of every morning. You may want a decrease in elevation before the official beginning of autumn.

#3 The weather can change quickly in the mountains, so be prepared with appropriate gear. If you store your winter gear away from your rig, but sure to pack a warm hat, warm socks, and decent jacket before you go up the mountain, even in the heart of summer. Take sturdy shoes to protect your feet if the weather turns cold and/or wet. If you have room, it’s not a bad idea to pack your Mr. Buddy heater too.

At the Rio Grande Gorge outside of Taos, NM (elevation 6, 969 feet) I’ve literally seen the weather change from sunny and hot to cloudy with lightning and thunder to rain and hail to rainbows and sunshine, all accompanied by a temperature drop of 20 degrees in less than an hour. Of course, these are not usual weather conditions, but proof that such changes can happen fast.

I seldom got my speedometer above 25 mph on this curvy California mountain road.

#4 Get yourself a good paper map. Don’t depend on GPS or your vehicle’s navigation system which can be entirely useless in remote, high elevation locations. If you get your directions online, be sure you can access then if you lose phone service. Your best bet is mapping out your route on your paper map before heading up.

#5 You might not have cell phone service either. Be prepared to live without cell phone service. Make all your calls and send texts before you start heading up the mountain. Warn anyone who might worry about you that you might not have cell phone service for a while.

#6 If you’re not accustomed to driving on winding, curving, twisting, mountain roads, plan to drive slowly. It takes a lot longer to drive a mountain mile than it takes to drive a mile on a flat stretch of road. The first summer I worked as a camp host, I picked up my mail 25 miles from the campground where I lived. Google Maps said it would take me 45 minutes to drive there, but it took me at least an hour.

This road outside Santa Fe, NM takes folks up up up the mountain.

#7 If you look in your review mirror and see a line of cars and trucks behind you, pull off in the next turn out and let the other vehicles pass. Folks accustomed to driving in the mountains may be able to drive on those roads faster than you can. That’s ok, but save the people behind you lots of frustration by letting them leave you in the dust.

#8 Be aware of bears. While you don’t want to succumb to bearanoia, if you’re boondocking in areas bears are known to frequent, you should take precautions so you don’t attract them to your camp.

In the book Bear Aware, author Bill Schneider offers an entire chapter detailing camping in bear country. The most important tip is to check potential campsites for signs of bears before you set up camp.

If you can see fresh sign [of bears] move on to another site with no signs of bear activity.

The second most important tip is to separate your sleeping and cooking areas.

The sleeping area and the cooking area must be separated by at least 100 yards.

Also, be prepared to “hang everything that has any food smell” or store those items in bear canisters.

If you’re unsure if the area where you want to boondock has issues with bears, visit the local ranger station to find out about bear activity before you choose your camping spot.

#9 Watch out for other mountain critters too.  You probably won’t see a mountain lion, but be prepared to react appropriately if you do. The Mountain Lion Foundation says to do the following if you meet a mountain lion:

  • Seem as large as possible.
  • Make noise.
  • Act defiant, not afraid.
  • Slowly create distance.
  • Protect yourself.

Again, I recommend you read the entire article before you need the information.

Where I worked in the mountains, we were more likely to see a timber rattler than a bear. To prevent a nasty bite (and a trip to an emergency room that may be more than an hour away), watch where you put your hands and feet. Don’t put any body part in a crack or crevice or under anything without first visually inspecting the area. If you see any snake, give it a wide berth so it can escape without feeling like it has to go on the defensive. For more information on how to avoid a snakebite or what to do if a rattlesnake does strike you, see this article from Denver Health.

The Man and I saw these wild horses just off the highway in Colorado at about 8,000 feet.

The part of the National Forest where I worked is open range, so people driving there have to watch for half wild mountain cows. I don’t know how common open range is in other mountain locations, but city folks are often quite surprised when they see cows on the road on their way up the mountain. If you see cows on a mountain road you’re driving on, slow down and give them plenty of room; sometimes cows bolt when they get nervous. The same holds true for wild horses, deer, elk, and moose, so be alert for large animals hanging out along mountain roads.

#10 Stock up on food, supplies, and fuel for your rig before you head up the mountain. Many mountain towns are secluded, and may not have the supplies you need. On the mountain where I worked, there was no diesel, none of the special fuel tiny backpacking stoves require, and no fresh vegetables for nearly 40 miles. If you are able to find what you’re looking for, you are going to pay a premium for items that had to be trucked up thousands of feet. In mountain towns, I’ve paid too much for ice ($4 for a seven pound bag), one-pound propane canisters ($6.95 for what costs under $4 bucks at most any Wal-Mart), and water ($3-$4 a gallon). You’re better off getting everything you need while you’re still in civilization.

There’s no way to imagine or prepare for every situation one might find oneself in while at a high altitude. In life we run into situations that could lead to harm, whether we’re in the city or the wilderness. I hope these tips help you plan for your health and safety when you leave the flatlands and venture up to higher elevations.

Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every danger you might encounter in the mountains. You are responsible for our own self. Research the problems you might encounter in the area you plan to camp in before you get there. If applicable, call the Forest Service ranger station responsible for the place you want to camp and ask about hazards in the area. Think before you act. If something you’re about to do seems potentially dangerous, don’t do it!

I took the photos in this post.