Rubber Tramp Artist stickers are available for your sticking pleasure!
Each sticker features the Rubber Tramp Artist logo and is available via USPS for $1.50.
Rubber Tramp Artist stickers are available for your sticking pleasure!
Each sticker features the Rubber Tramp Artist logo and is available via USPS for $1.50.
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:
#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.
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.
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.
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
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness and nausea
- 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.
#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.
#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 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!
So you’re going to escape the worst of winter by heading to the deserts of Southern Arizona (the Sonoran), Southern New Mexico (the Chijuajuan) or Southern California (the Mojave). Maybe you’re going to Quartzsite to attend The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous or to stay in a Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). Congratulations!
While you probably won’t face seemingly unending days of ice and snow, a desert environment can pose its own challenges. If you’ve never been to the desert before (or you’re a desert dweller who needs some reminders to shake you out of your complacency), here are ten tips to help you survive and thrive in the desert.
#1 Drink plenty of water. Even if your winter desert isn’t hot, it’s still extremely dry. Even in the winter, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink before you feel thirsty.
#2 Alcohol can dehydrate you, so limit your consumption. The desert environment has probably already dehydrated you, and alcohol can make things worse. Take it slow with the alcohol until you determine how your body is reacting to the dry environment. If you’re drinking alcohol, up your water intake.
#3 Don’t get too much sun. Yes, you’ve escaped the harsh winter and the sun feels good on your skin, but don’t overdo it. Be sure you have some shade to escape to during the hottest part of the day; yes, even in the winter, a desert can get hot. Wear long pants and long sleeves made from light cotton to protect your skin, and wear sunscreen on any parts you leave uncovered. I use sunscreen on my face, and I wear my hat with the wide brim to further protect my face. My hat also provides a barrier between the sun and my head.
#4 Deserts can get cold too, so have appropriate gear. Even if a winter day in the desert is sunny and relatively warm, the night can get cold. Especially if you’re going to be out and about in the desert night, be prepared with long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a warm hat. If you tend to feel cold and depending on the temperature, you may also need a jacket and gloves. If your ears are sensitive be prepared to protect them from the wind. Check the weather forecast before you head to your desert destination so you know what clothing you may need.
#5 Watch for Critters. You’re less likely to see a rattlesnake in the winter than the summer, but the snakes are still around. Especially on a warm and sunny day, rattlers may be on the move. Don’t stick your hands or feet into any crack or crevice you haven’t first visually inspected. If you do encounter a rattler (or any other snake) give it a wide berth so it has plenty of room to escape. Don’t poke or prod it, and let it be on its way. If you are bitten by a nonpoisonous snake, clean the wound and get a tetanus shot if you need too. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake, get to an emergency room ASAP.
Turn your shoes upside down and shake them out before you put them on. This will help prevent your toes from meeting any unwelcome spider or scorpion visitors. Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic about what to do if you’re stung by a scorpion before you need them. Maybe print out the tips and include them in your first aid kit.
Coyotes aren’t likely to attack an adult human but it does happen. They’re known to snatch cats and small dogs (even in broad daylight!) and lure larger dogs to their deaths. Don’t leave your pet unattended in the desert! Stay with your dog when it’s outside and keep it in your rig when you can’t watch it.
#6 Don’t get too close to cholla. Pronounced [chaw-yah], there are more than 20 species of this cactus in the deserts of North America. The joints of this cactus are attached very loosely and will easily attach to a person or dog who brushed by. The joints are full of spines, and if you touch them, you’re likely to be full of spines too!
Keep inquisitive dogs away from cholla. When a dog tries to sniff cholla, it usually ends up with spines in its nose. The dog then tries to use its paws to scratch at the spines in its nose, thus getting spines in its paws. The situation can quickly escalate into a full-blown mess.
According to the 2013 articled “How To Remove Cactus Spines From Your Perforated Body,” by Chris Clarke
Many desert rats accustomed to living in cholla country will carry a large comb with them: it’s an excellent tool for prying cholla stems off yourself.
#7 Be ready for wind and the dust it can bring. I grew up in the Deep South where the wind was nothing to get upset about unless we found ourselves in the midst of a hurricane. I began to learn about real wind when I moved to the Midwest, but I really didn’t know wind until I spent time in New Mexico and Arizona. A desert wind is quite a wind. It can blow hard for hours or days on end and whisk away folding tables and chairs and other gear you may have outside your rig. Any tents or easy-ups must be held down securely so the wind doesn’t blow them away and mangle them in the process.
Without moisture to hold it down, desert dust is easily blown around, sometimes leading to poor air quality. Be prepared to stay in your rig with the windows closed when the dust is at its worst.
#8 Don’t camp in arroyos or other low-lying areas. An arroyo (pronounced [uh–roi-oh] and also known as a wash, gully, gulch, or ditch) is a place where water flows when it rains. (Yes, it rains in the desert, sometimes in the winter.) Even if it’s not raining where you are, a flashflood caused by heavy rain upstream can fill an arroyo with water suddenly and unexpectedly. I’m not talking a trickle of water; I’m talking enough water to wash away your camp.
In a footnote to a 2016 the Scientific America article “Instant Peril: Flash Floods (and How to Survive Them)“, author Dana Hunter offers some advice.
I can tell you from bitter experience that even though that flat, sandy wash bottom makes a bonza place to pitch a tent, it is horrible if there’s a thunderstorm in the night. At worst, you’re swept away and drowned. At best, you’re awakened in the middle of the night by the stream that’s now flowing through your sleeping bag, and you have to haul your soaked self and belongings to high ground. In the dark. In the rain. And you’ll do a terrible job pitching the tent. Where you won’t be able to sleep because you’re too wet.
#9 Be careful when driving through or parking on sand. It’s easy to get stuck in sand. Bob Wells has an excellent article about getting stuck and how to get unstuck on his Cheap RV Living blog. I suggest reading his post “Getting Stuck: How to Avoid it and What to Do if it Happens” before you encounter desert sand.
#10 Old mines are dangerous; don’t go in them! There are thousands of abanoned mines on Bureau of Land Management sites throughout the deserts of the Southwest. I saw one while camping on BLM land outside Ajo, Arizona and did some research, leading me to write a blog post about what I disovered. The the BLM’s FAQ on Abandoned Mine Lands says such mines can lead to physical and human health hazards.
- Physical hazards: Unsecured AML [Abandoned Mine Lands] sites pose a risk of death or serious injury by falling down open mine shafts.
- Human health hazards: Exposure to toxic gases and chemicals, cave-ins, explosives, and water hazards endanger human health
If you see any signs like the one pictured here, stay safe by keeping your distance.
Don’t be discouraged! Being prepared for the challenges of the desert can help you avoid the environment’s pitfalls and increase your chances of enjoying yourself. I was in my 40s before I grew acquainted with the desert, but now it’s my winter destinations of choice. You might find you grow to love it too!
Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every problem you might encounter in the desert. Only you are responsible for you! Do your research before you head to the desert, use common sense, and think before you act.
Nevada Day was originally observed on October 31 each year. Since 2000, it is observed on the last Friday in October.
On this holiday all state, county and city government offices are closed, along with most schools and libraries…
In 2000, the Nevada Legislature decided to celebrate the holiday on a Friday, hoping that a three-day weekend would generate more interest. Nevada Day is now observed on the last Friday in October.
Last year on Nevada Day, I was in Las Vegas visiting The Poet and The Activist. I think The Poet mentioned Nevada Day as we were planning our activities during my stay. As far as I was concerned, the best perk of Nevada Day was free admission to the Nevada State Museum in Springs Preserve. (Normal admission for adults who do not reside in Nevada is $19.95!)
We talked about visiting the State Museum on Nevada Day. We thought it might be a fun way to spend a few hours, and we were pleased admission would cost us nothing.
The Poet told me her favorite features of the State Museum were the penny postcards in the gift shop and the onsite café with heaping plates of potato tots that cost only $3. Both features sounded great to me. I love both postcards and potato tots, and I love bargains most of all.
The Activist dropped me and The Poet off near the Divine Café, the restaurant that serves Springs Preserve. While he parked, we slowly climbed the stairs up up up while The Poet talked about the big plates of delicious, hot, greasy, salty, crispy potato tots we’d soon be enjoying.
When we reached the café, we realized we weren’t the only people who were hungry. The place was packed. School kids sat at nearly eavery table. School kids ran around in the spaces between tables. Adult chaperones looked tired and at the end of their collective rope. Then an employee walked down the line, letting us know the kitchen was very busy (no surprise there), and after we ordered, there would be a half an hour wait for our food. Maybe we should not have planned to eat at the State Museum on Nevada Day, but the thought of potato tots was so enticing, we did not get out of line.
The Activist met us in line after parking the car. He shrugged when we told him about the 30 minute wait, asked The Poet to get him a soda, and wandered off to find a table for us.
While standing in line, The Poet and I saw a beauty queen. She wore a long white gown that shimmered and a tiara atop her yellow hair. The tiara gave her away as royalty, as did the satin sash slung across her chest. She was sitting with a man dressed like a cowboy. He didn’t seem to be wearing a cowboy costume; the tight jeans and the pointy boots fit him like everyday clothes.
I joked about approaching the beauty queen and acting as if I recognized her fame and asking to have my photo taken with her. I spun out an entire story about meeting the beauty queen, and I made The Poet laugh, but unsurprisingly, I chickened out and never approached the woman at all.
When I saw the beauty queen from a distance, I assumed she was very young. In my (limited) experience, beauty queens are very young, so I assumed this woman was too. She was quite thin too, an attribute I associate with youth. When I got closer and saw the wrinkles on her tan face, I had a better idea of her true age. The wrinkles were evidence she was living her middle years. I understood her situation better when I was able to read the words on her sash. She wasn’t Miss Nevada, as I’d originally assumed, but Mrs. Nevada. At one point, she caught me looking, we made eye contact, and she gave me a big, beautiful beauty queen smile. I could see that whatever her age, Mrs. Nevada had the skills of a pagent winner.
Finally it was our turn at the counter. The Poet placed our order, then we carried our number to the table where The Activist was waiting. While the company was great, the wait was excruciating. Would the tots ever come? Finally, they did.
The plate placed in front of me was heaping with hot tots. They were perfectly crispy, perfectly salty, perfectly greasy, perfectly delicious. For once in my life, I had enough tots on my plate to satisfy all of my potato desires.
After we finished our snack, we headed to the gift shop. It was a huge room filled iwth all the items one would expect to find in a museum store: mugs, jewelry, educational toys, and tasteful t-shirts, among other things. However, we couldn’t find the penny postcards.
I went up to the counter and asked the young man working there where the postcards were. He showed me to a rack we’d already looked at; the cards displayed there cost plenty more than a penny. When I asked him specifically about the penny postcards, he seemed confused, then said they’s sold out of them quite a while back. I guess The Poet hadn’t been to the museum gift store in a while.
We went into the museum to see the exhibits.
The first gallery was filled with displays related to the natural history of the state–lots of ancient bones and fossils.
We skipped that area and went directly to a room with a temporary exhibit of photographs of a ranching family. I learned on the State Museum website that the exhibit was called Ranching in the High Desert – Five Generations, One Family. The photography on display was by Jeff Scheid, and the family in the photos were “Nye County’s Fallini clan.” I enjoyed looking at the photos; I typically enjoy photography.
I wasn’t too excited about the temporary exhibit in the next room. The exhibit there was The Artistry of Pete Menefee. The website says,
A multiple Emmy-Award-winning costume designer, Pete Menefee is famed for his inimitable work with musical superstars, variety productions, and Nevada’s costume-spectacular stage shows. The Artistry of Pete Menefee, Costume Design for the Nevada Stage interprets the significance of Menefee’s work through photographs, stage costumes, and the original costume design renderings from Hello Hollywood Hello, Jubilee, and Splash.
Maybe the display would have been more exciting to me if I were interested in fashion, or theater, or costume design, but that’s just not me.
The part of the museum I did enjoy was the one dedicated to the cultural history of the Nevada, especially the interactive displays. One little nook was dedicated to the history of atomic testing in the state. There was a replica of a covered wagon on display; I condidered the possiblity of living in it and decided it was big enough for me. A large display told about mining in the state. My favorite lessons came from photographs of Native American on a wall. When visitors pushed a button, the people in the photos came to life and told of their experiences. The talking photos were highly informatiove and a little spooky.
Overall, I enjoyed the museum. It was clean and the interactive displays worked. The lighting was low enough to be soothing, but bright enough to see by. I would visit the Nevada State Museum again, on Nevada Day or any time free admission is offered. If I’m in the area, I’ll certainly pop in for potato tots.
Let’s face it: a lot of us boondockers are city kids who’ve found ourselves spending a lot of time in the woods now that we’re living in our vans (or motorhomes or truck campers or cars or whatever). The forest can be a worrisome place for folks who didn’t camp much during our formative years. While I don’t sit around worrying about treachery at every turn, I do believe in taking precautions to keep myself and my belongings safe. Sometimes it’s easy to let our guard down when we’re surrounded by the beauty of nature, but vigilance is important, especially for folks out on their own.
Whether you’re camping in a tent or a motorhome or something in-between, you want to stay safe and healthy during your time in the forest. These tips can help you if you’re spending just a weekend out in the trees or moving from forest to forest while living nomadically.
#1 Don’t leave your belongings lying around. You may be honest, but your neighbors may not be. Whether you’re in a campground or boondocking in the wilderness, it’s a good idea to put valuables away when you leave your camp. If you’d be sad if an item were stolen or if you can’t afford to replace it, lock it up before you go.
If I’m camping somewhere for more than one night, I’ll often set up a tent to use as my storage shed. If I leave camp, I can easily stow my stove, propane tank, and tables in the tent. It’s quicker than packing everything into the van, and while it won’t stop a determined thief, it will slow down someone who can’t resist easy pickings.
#2 Don’t open your door to strangers. Just because you’re out of the city doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious about who you let into your living space. If a stranger knocks, talk through a window. While I believe most people in the world are good at heart, don’t let a bad apple into your rig by mistake.
If you set the forest on fire, your safety is at stake too. If you’re away from your campsite or asleep when your campfire starts a wildfire, your property and life will be in danger.
The Forest Service gives these tips for making sure your campfire is completely out:
- First, drown the campfire with water!
- Next, mix the ashes and embers with soil.
- Stir the embers after they are covered with water and make sure that everything is wet.
- Feel the coals, embers, and any partially-burned wood with your hands. Everything (including the rock fire ring) should be cool to the touch. Feel under the rocks to make sure [there are] no embers underneath.
- When you think you are done, take an extra minute and add more water.
- Finally, check the entire campsite for possible sparks or embers, because it only takes one to start a forest fire.
- Remember…if it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
#4 Keep your pet leashed and under your control or in your rig. If coyotes are in the area, small dogs and cats are at risk of being snatched. If you’re in bear country, even a large dog is no match for an adult Ursus americanus (black bear), much less an Ursus arctos (grizzly bear). Dogs antagonize bears and bears attack dogs. Protect your dog by not letting it run loose.
#5 Speaking of bears, don’t attract them with food and garbage left around your campsite. Keep a clean camp. Food and garbage lying around can attract not just bears, but other critters like flies, rodents, raccoons, and ravens. Of course, you don’t want to tangle with bears, but even smaller animals can create a huge mess by dragging food and garbage all over your campsite. Flies carry disease, and no one wants to get sick while they’re supposed to be enjoying trees and birdsong.
If you’re in a campground, put trash in garbage cans or dumpsters right away. Be sure you close garbage containers securely. If you’re boondocking in a place with no trash containers, tie garbage bags and stow them securely in your rig until you can pack out what you’ve packed in.
If bears are a problem where you’re camping, store all food and trash in bear boxes if provided or use your own bear canister.
#6 Beware of falling branches. It’s nice to park in a shady spot when the summer sun is beating down, but a falling branch can wreak havoc on your rig or tent. Look up before you pick your spot and notice any obviously dangerous tree limbs. Even if no limbs seem to be in danger of falling, remember that a high wind can send branches crashing to the ground with no warning.
A Forest Service website gives tips to keep you and your belongings safe from falling branches. Read all about it before you head off into the woods.
#7 Don’t pick up critters. The forest where I work seasonally posts warnings about plague and hanta virus. Picking up a sick animal greatly increases one’s chance of infection. In most wild places, wild animals won’t let humans get anywhere near them. If a cute little critter lets you pick it up, it’s probably not healthy. Don’t risk your well-being by picking up a creature that might be infectious.
#8 Watch out for snakes. While most snakes aren’t poisonous, you still don’t want to be bitten by one. Even a nonpoisonous snake bite may require medical attention. When a friend of mine was bitten by a rattler in his own driveway, he ended up spending a couple of nights in the hospital. I certainly don’t have the time or money for anything like that.
#9 Wash your hands. E. coli doesn’t take a vacation just because you’ve left civilization. If, like me, you don’t have running water in your rig, you can set up a handwashing station in your camp. I use a seven gallon water jug with a spigot so I can control the flow of water and conserve the precious resource. At a bare minimum, wash up after performing elimination functions and before handling food.
#10 Know what creepy crawlies and flying critters you need to protect against. In certain areas, bug bites can be more than a temporary annoyance. Do the local mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus? Are you at risk from getting Lyme disease from the ticks where you’re camping? Do you need to worry about brown recluse or black widow spiders? If the pests where you’re camping are poisonous or carry disease, you’re going to have to be extra vigilant about protecting yourself.
Ticks are creepy whether or not they carry Lyme disease. If you find an attached tick during a full-body inspection, you’ll want to remove it immediately. Go to the Centers for Disease Control website to learn the steps for removing a tick. You may want to print out the steps to include in your first aid kit.
The Pronto Pest Management offers “10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Ticks While Camping.”
The USA Today website has an article with tips on “How to Keep Spiders from Campsites.”
There’s no way to imagine or prepare for every single danger one might encounter in the woods. 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 concrete and venture out into nature.
Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you or protect you from every danger you might encounter in the forest. 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. Call the local BLM field office or 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 recived several guest posts all at once, so I’m getting them scheduled. Today’s post is all about vacations and how you can manage to take one even if you have limited time and money. It was written by Catherine Workman.
Taking a vacation is a dream that many of us fantasize about, yet don’t follow through. We think that we don’t have time, the funding isn’t there, or that it might add stress instead of give us the relaxation we need. If it’s been too long since your last vacation, here are some tips to taking a stress-free holiday on a budget.
The Surprising Benefits
Many may put off taking that vacation simply because they see it as a luxury. However, much can be said for making taking time off a priority. Studies suggest that having a break from normal life can reduce anxiety, even once you get home, refreshed and recharged. It can aid in levels of life satisfaction and may even help you physically by improving quality of sleep. Getting better rest can leave one energized and feeling happier. It may also lower blood pressure. All of these can help you feel better, so if you have been feeling particularly stressed, or have had difficulty sleeping, it might be time for a vacation.
Time Your Trip Wisely
One way to save on the expenses during your trip is to go outside of peak season. Look at what area you might want to visit, and research when most people go. Next, choose whether you would like to visit during off-season or shoulder-season, which is between peak and off-season. Off-season may find you with less to do during your stay, which is why shoulder-season is a good compromise between saving money and still having lots of fun. You can avoid some of the heavier traffic during this time as well, which may mean less gas bought and less stress overall. You can take a shorter trip, and enjoy it just as much as you might have during peak season.
Often, the word vacation sparks ideas of tropical climates and foreign landscapes. However, by traveling somewhere closer to home, you can have a fulfilling and relaxing vacation, without spending the vast sums that overseas travel often requires. You could try a beautiful national park, or even the Grand Canyon. There are several times during the year where access to national parks is free to the public, so you can plan your trip around these.
Or, you could go to a historical destination to learn a bit, and stay in affordable accommodations, such as at Williamsburg, Portland, or San Antonio. If you’re looking for a beach to relax on, places such as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina are far cheaper than more popular alternatives including Miami and California’s Newport. Since these places are closer to home, you don’t need to devote as much time to them as you might traveling abroad. You don’t even need to leave your time zone.
Use Your Club and Credit Cards
Many club-type stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, offer vacation packages at a discount. You might be surprised at the variation, and the low price, of vacations offered. One of the benefits of using an all-inclusive vacation deal from such a venue is what comes with the package. Often, your travel costs are covered, as are car rentals, hotels and other features, such as tickets to theme parks and sports stadiums. There are a variety of options from which to choose, and the packages usually rotate. It’s therefore important to check frequently to find something you might enjoy and book it before it’s gone.
Another way to save a little extra is to open a credit account with a company that offers miles for the points you earn. By using your card throughout the year, you can quickly add up points that can be translated into free, or heavily discounted flights.
Keep Things Calm at Home
One reason we may put off travel is because leaving our homes would simply be too complicated, especially if we have pets. If you’re traveling by plane, it may be best to leave Fido at home. However, just because we leave our pets behind does not mean they aren’t constantly on our minds. During your vacation, your focus should be on relaxation, not worrying about whether or not your dog is doing OK. To allay some of your fears, you may want to hire a dog boarder. See if your vet has any recommendations. Visit any potential boarders or kennels, and make sure it’s a place you feel comfortable leaving your dog. Ask plenty of questions, such as how often your dog will be walked, if playtime with other dogs is included and what the policy is on dogs of different sizes and play-styles. If your dog is timid, you don’t want them being overwhelmed by an aggressive, larger breed after all. The boarder should be able to address all of your concerns, so you can relax during your vacation.
Making time for yourself is important. Finding new ways to relax, and let your batteries recharge, is not an act of selfishness but of self-care. Plan your trip wisely, go somewhere unique and avoid the busiest seasons. You may be surprised to find how affordable, enjoyable, and rejuvenating vacationing on a budget can be.
Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health.
I’m running several guest posts this month, and this is one of them. Although it’s written specifically about folks in the UK, it can certainly apply to readers in the U.S.
Not sure what a caravan even is? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a caravan is a
In the United States, we might call a caravan a “camper”, a “pull-behind”, an “RV” (Recreational Vehicle), or a “trailer.” Just substitute one of those words whenever you see the word “caravan” in this post.
With cheaper flights and low-cost international luxury being enjoyed by more and more UK holidaymakers, the simple charm of a caravan holiday might not be the first thing to spring to mind if you want a really picturesque and unforgettable getaway. But it’s also true that family finances in the UK are getting that bit tighter, and so caravan holidays can offer a low cost, but memorable holiday choice for a family or group of friends who may want to choose a vacation on a budget.
So if you’d ruled out a caravan holiday in the past, here’s seven reasons why it might be time to think again.
The opportunity to meet new people
The nomadic lifestyle inherent in a caravan holiday means you’ve got a great opportunity to meet some like-minded holiday makers. Obviously, making new friends isn’t a benefit exclusive to caravan holidays, but you’re more likely to find yourself embedded with a range of different communities at every stop you make. It also offers you the best of both worlds when you want a bit of solitude, which can be harder to find if you’re staying in a crowded hostel. The UK countryside is home to a friendly and open campsite culture, so why not hit the open road in your caravan and take advantage of it?
No need to book in advance
There’s an added freedom to embarking on a caravan holiday, as you don’t need to book your destination in advance. Your caravan gives you a flexibility which isn’t normally afforded to the average holidaymaker. Owning a caravan gives you and your family the flexibility to grab a relaxing break whenever you want.
You and your family can save a tonne of money from travelling the UK in a caravan. Instead of forking out a lot of money on hotel bills and expensive restaurants, the average campsite allows you to cut costs whilst still enjoying a memorable, relaxing break. You’ll have to do your own cooking, but consider life in a caravan a chance to flex your culinary muscles and take advantage of some home cooked food.
It’s a more meaningful experience
Again, we’re not suggesting that beach holidays or city breaks don’t offer the chance to spend some quality time with your family, friends, or loved one. But there’s something unique about the caravan experience which makes it that much more likely to foster treasured memories. If you’re with your family or friends, then you’ve got more time together, contributing towards all the necessary chores and errands which are required for the upkeep of your caravan. Likewise, you have to be more creative with your leisure time, whether it’s board games or campfire stories to pass the time.
The picturesque locations
Most caravan sites in the UK are often on the doorstep of a whole range of beautiful landscapes. When you consider that the UK has the Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds and the Scottish Highlands, the incentives for camping in the UK countryside are hard to ignore. Again, you can see picturesque locations from the comfort of your caravan, without the added cost of flights and hotels.
It’s better for your fitness
If you’re staying in some of those picturesque locations we’ve already mentioned, then there’s a greater incentive to put on those walking boots and explore the local scenery. If you’ve got young children on your caravan trip with you, then this is your chance to introduce them to the natural world.
They’re a long-term investment
We’ve already discussed the ways in which caravans be a great cost saver when it comes to planning short term getaways. But it’s worthwhile thinking about how caravans can be a great long term investment for you and your family. They retain their value over time, and you may get a decent return on your investment should you ever decide to sell your caravan.
Another guest post today, this one about keeping your bicycle safe and secure while you’re moving from place to place. I tried living in my van with a bicycle for a couple of months. The bicycle was not a good vandweller traveling companion. I ended up selling it because I was tired of climbing over and around it. Maybe if I had read this article (and had some money!) I could have figured out a way to store my bike securely on the outside of my van!
Outdoor enthusiasts can’t resist a good opportunity to head on out to the open road with their bike, and bikes and camper vans are a match made in heaven. You can always stick to your local routes or you can strap your bike on your RV or campervan and head out to a new adventure to broaden your cycling experience. You’ll often find quiet roads or bike tracks to keep the cycling experience interesting.
But the real issue here is that, apart from your own safety, you also need to be mindful of how to protect your bike while traveling from one place to another, and to secure it safely as you travel in your camper van.
Now, you have a few options when you’re transporting your bike, and you’ll have to find the option that works for you. Before you pack your bike, here are some excellent tips from our friends over at BikeStorage.co on what you need to do to protect your bike from getting damaged or even stolen.
Depending on the make of your RV or camper van, rear-mounted carriers are often the easiest to use, but they have their drawbacks. For one thing, your access to the back of the vehicle is limited, which becomes an issue if you are also packing your gear or parking. Your bike is also more susceptible to damage from the elements, like rock and dirt.
There are various considerations when picking a rear rack. For example, how many bikes do you have? How sturdy is the carrier? How much does it protect your bike?
Another consideration is of course the price. For example, the Maypole 2 Cycle Carrier has a load capacity of 35kg (77 pounds) is easy to use and only costs £30 (about $40). However, it clamps to the towball, which means that you cannot tow and use the cycle carrier at the same time.
When using a carrier, you also need to make sure that you don’t block any windows or doors or conceal your registration plate.
If you are using a rack, it’s important that you position your bike properly to keep it from getting damaged while traveling. You’ll want to make sure that your carriers secure the bike frame for stability. You’ll also want to make sure to place the clamp as close as possible to the frame joint, since that’s where the frame is strongest. This is particularly important if you have a carbon frame bike.
You can also secure your bike to the roof of your camper van. You need to be aware that this may make accessing your bike a little more cumbersome and will probably mean you will need a ladder.
Storing your bike inside your camper van is probably the easiest way of traveling with your bike and keeping it safe. Storing it inside means you don’t have to buy any extra kit, and that it will be inaccessible to any wandering hands. This is also the cheapest and most secure method of them all.
Some choose to remove the front wheel of their bike and store it in the inside. One drawback here is that you can damage your RV’s interior including leaving traces of bike grease and dirt in the carpet. If you’re traveling with other people, you might not have enough room to pack your bike inside your camper. When doing this, there are some things to be aware of, including obviously how to secure your bike carefully if it is in the cabin.
For example, a traveller named Darren said:
During my trip around Europe I bought a bike in Spain. I didn’t have a bike rack on my panel van. I drove with the bike in the back, secured with bungees. When on campsites I left the bike leaning against a nearby tree. When free camping in more urban areas I generally put my bike in the cab of my medium-height Mercedes Sprinter. The bike just fits in, with the handlebars turned slightly to shut the door afterwards. Once in the cab I drape[d] a dark blanket over it, so passersby [wouldn’t] see anything bright or reflective in the cab. When free camping by the beach I normally put the bike under the van, at the [back], and lock[ed] it to the spare wheel holder.
As well as these strategies, you could also use mounts to make sure that your bike does not move around in the cockpit, and that, most importantly, your bike doesn’t come loose and injure any of your passengers.
Traveling often means leaving your bike unsupervised for periods of time. You may go out for a meal, or to explore the area, and, during this time your bike is susceptible to theft. To keep your bike safe inside the RV, you should always make sure that your doors are locked and that your van is parked in a well-lit area. You could also ask your fellow travellers to keep an eye out for your bike for you!
It’s also a good idea to use U-locks as opposed to cable locks, since the latter is more susceptible to removal with a cable cutter. Most bikers would use U-locks and cable locks together for added security. You can read more about how to lock your bike in this article.
Some of us may even want to go one step further. There are those that actually take their bikes with them while traveling via boat, plane, train, or bus. Securing your bike while in transit becomes a different story altogether. In this case, you will want to use hard and soft-shelled cases designed to help you move your bikes around while keeping them protected from baggage claim jostles and bumps. Of course, you may need more than a FRAGILE sticker attached to your bike to prevent it from getting damaged!
Using bike cases requires you to have some mechanical skill, since you have to disassemble your bike. We’re not talking about removing the wheels; some cases require you to remove the handlebars as well.
If you follow these tips on keeping your bike secure and safe when travelling in your camper van or RV, you will surely have an amazing time.
Stefan is the Community Manager at BikeStorage.co. Stefan is a keen blogger and in his free time likes to discover new cycle routes around his local countryside. As a keen cyclist Stefan joined the team at BikeStorage after struggling to find the right storage solution for his bikes while at home and while travelling.