Category Archives: Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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 6am 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 gast 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 Quartzite 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.

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 9am – 1pm

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 the Quartzsite General Store (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 Ave) and the Quartzsite Food Bank (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenue). I’ve been treated with respect and compassion at both of these food banks.

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.

 

 

Interloper at the RTR

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I wrote about this experience at the 2017 RTR but never publislhed it because I really wasn’t as nice as I should have been. I’ve decided to share it anyway. We can all probably learn some lessons from the story. 

The 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was crowded. There were substantially more people there than in either 2015 or 2016. I guess that’s what happens when a free event is promoted far and wide on social media.

I’d joined Auntie M’s camp across the road from the free pile. In the three days I’d been there, Auntie M had become frustrated by the crowds and the sense of entitlement displayed by some of the RTR participants. She managed to find a spot on the far outskirts of the gathering and moved out there. My friend Gee had arrived from the Midwest and spent one night across the road from us, then moved into the spot Auntie M vacated. I was waiting for a third friend to arrive, so Gee and I  staked out a space between my rig and hers with folding tables and camp chairs.

It was Thursday night, and as usual, I’d gone to bed early. I was in a deep sleep when the headlights shining through my back windows woke me. Someone had gone around the barriers and pulled into my camp on the side of Gee and me fatherest from the road. I wasn’t expecting anyone I knew to arrive that late. No one had texted me to say she was on her way; no one had texted me to say she had arrived. When I peeked out my back window, I saw the vehicle that had pulled into my camp was a large pickup with a slide-in camper on the back. I didn’t know anyone who drove that sort of rig.

I should have gotten out of bed, put on some clothes, and gone out to speak to the stranger who’d so boldly moved right into my camp. I should have told the interloper the truck was parked too close, and we were saving room for another rig. I should have stood up for myself. However, I’m Southern, and I hate conflict, and it was dark and chilly outside, so I fumed for a while, then went back to sleep.

I was up early the next morning. Gee was on her way out on a day trip, so I stretched the tables and chairs to save the spot she’d left temporarily empty.

While I was out there, I determined how the interloper had gotten in. She drove on the narrow path between our closest neighbor and Gee’s small cargo trailer. The trailer, Gee’s van, and my rig were parked parallel to the road. The driver of the pickup had come around from the back and parked on the thin strip of level ground to our left. No considerate person would have put themselves so close to us or tried to start another row of rigs on our far side.

My third friend had arrived in Quartzsite the pervious afternoon, found Auntie M’s camp, and spent the night there. She and Auntie walked into the main camp for the morning seminar. When they saw how close the interloper had parked to me and Gee, they were outraged on our behalf.

I was still undecided about what to do.

I know there is no exclusive use of public land. I could tell the driver of the truck s/he ws too close, but the BLM wouldn’t back me up on that. If I suggested the interloper move and s/he refused, I might have a pissed off, vindictive person in my camp. Perhaps it was better to say nothing and just try to get along.

It was late morning before the interloper emerged from the rig. I was talking to my friend Iggy when the woman and her tiny chihuahua came outside. She plopped down into her camp chair and tried to insinuate herself into our conversation. I was livid. I might have felt differently had she introduced herself, explained her situation, maybe apologized for being way too close. However, she did none of those things. She just acted as if it were perfectly natural to move in on strangers without so much as a howdy-do.

I replied to her attempts at conversation coldly. I discreetly (or maybe not so discreetly…I didn’t much care) moved father away from her. I was most unhappy with the situation.

While Iggy and I talked, the interloper’s dog barked and strained on its leash to meet another dog. She brought the chihuahua to meet the other dog, and as they parted ways, the chihuahua defecated just outside my camp. When the chihuahua was done, it and its person went back to the truck. I assumed she would get a plastic bag and clean up the mess, but instead she plopped back down in her chair.

I turned to her and asked, Are you going to clean that up? I figured someone was bound to step in the shit if it sat there very long.

The woman sputtered about needing to get a plastic bag, then got out of her chair, found a bag, and cleaned up the mess. I suspect she hadn’t planned on picking up after her dog.

I went back to my conversation with Iggy until we saw folks walking up to the free pile with armloads of items to give away. We decided to walk over and examine the new offerings.

Lady Nell was at the free pile, so I was chatting with her while finding a few more useful free items. I glanced across the street at my camp and saw the interloper had a visitor. Then I realized the interloper’s gentleman caller was sitting a chair I’d earlier salvaged from the free pile and promised to a friend. The nerve!

I told Lady Nell what was going one, and she and others around the free pile agreed it wasn’t ok. Both Lady Nell and  woman I’d never seen before asked if I needed backup, but I said I thought I could handle it ok.

I marched across the stree and right up to the man. Excuse me, I said coldly to the gentleman caller. That’s my chair.

To his credit, he jumped right up and apologized for offending me. I snatched the chair, folded it up, and brought it to my van. The interloper and her gentleman caller then went over to Gee’s chairs which were holding space for her rig and had a conversation about whether or not he should sit in one of those. Apparently they decided not, so they walked over to the neighboring camp and sat in the chairs there. (I found out later the interloper was friendly with the neighbor.)

Honestly, I if I had been standing there and the guy had asked to borrow the chair, I would have said yes. However, walking into a stranger’s camp and making use of someone’s gear without permission is simply unacceptable.

I sat in my van with the side doors open most of the rest of the afternoon fuming and texting with Auntie M who was even madder about the whole thing than I was. Around three o’clock, one of Gee’s friends came by, and I had a pleasant conversation with him. While we were talking, the interloper maneuvered her truck out of our camp and took off on the road out of the gathering.

When Gee’s friend and his cute dog strolled off to resume their evening constitutional, I approached the guy in the camp next door. I’d seen him talking to the interloper after her gentleman caller left.

Is that lady gone for good? I asked the neighbor

She had orignally been parked on the other side of him, he told me. When she’d come back from town the night before, she’d been disoriented (is that what kids these days are calling it?)  and accidentally pulled into my cap. She must have been quite disoriented becaues my camp looked nothing like where she’d been parked before and there was no way to accidentally pull in where she’d put her truck.

I told him she’d been too close to me and Gee, then her gentleman caller had used my chair without my permission.

Yeah, the guy said, she told me you’d read her the riot act.

Oh dear! She thought that was the riot act? That was the wimpiest riot act ever! I didn’t even ask her to move or complain about her being too close. I only asked her if she planned to clean up her dog’s poop and reclaimed my own chair.

I suppose I should have been more direct in a kind way, but sometimes I’m just at a loss.

 

RTArt Camp (Part 2)

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What we have here is one of the early steps of preparing wool for the felted shower scrubby.

If you haven’t read the first part of my report on the RTArt Camp, you can find it here.

On the first Friday of the RTR, the RTArt Camp hosted its first workshop. A woman showed interested folks how to felt wool on a bar of soap to create a shower scrubby. Eight or so people participated, and everyone seemed to have fun.

The following day saw probably the most popular activity of the art camp. An artist staying in a motorhome with her husband just past Coyote Sue’s rig taught people how to do acrylic pour painting on canvas. More than a dozen people participated that day, and the activity was so well-received, the artist taught the pouring technique again later in the week.

On Sunday, I led the first of two activities—finger painting! Ever since I’d agreed to help with the RTArt Camp, I’d wanted to offer finger painting. I thought it would be a good activity for people who didn’t consider themselves artistic. Also, I didn’t remember doing finger painting as a child, so I thought the RTArt Camp would be a good excuse to have the experience. I’d bought a three pack of eight ounce finger paints in primary colors so we could mix, as well as three rolls of freezer paper. I had high hopes, but turnout was rather small, maybe eight people. On the plus side, one big burly guy came over to finger pain particularly because he hadn’t done it since he was a child. We got him (as well as a male New Englander friend of mine) totally out of their comfort zones.

I learned something very important about finger painting that day. It’s lots of fun to paint on the smooth, shiny side of the freezer paper; the flow is amazing. However, as soon as the paint dries, it peels right off that slick paper. I used it as an opportunity to talk about the Merry Pranksters and their belief that “art is not eternal.”

Here’s a mandala drawn during Coyote Sue’s class demonstrating an easy technique for drawing them. I’m not sure who drew this one. If you are the artist, please feel free to speak up in the comments.

Monday brought Coyote Sue teaching an easy technique for drawing mandalas. The class was well-attended, and people seemed to enjoy the process.

On Tuesday (or maybe it was Wednesday), the art camp had two classes going at once. One woman taught folks how to make beaded bracelets as a follow-up to her class on embroidering beads onto watercolor paper which happened before finger painting on Sunday. Another woman taught crochet. She was able to help beginners with the basics and give more advanced instruction to folks with experience. It was really cool to come back from town that day and see people sitting all around our tables.

Thursday was another popular day at the RTArt Camp. A monk (for real!) led a pencil drawing workshop where he demonstrated techniques for making life-like art. Probably a dozen people spent time drawing according to his instructions.

This positive voodoo doll was made by a mom on the road so she could send loving energy to her kid.

The crochet lady was at it again on Friday at a voodoo doll making workshop. She donated materials (fabric, fluff) and her expertise so people could make voodoo dolls. Several people said they were making replicas of political leaders, while one woman made a “positive” voodoo doll representing her daughter. She planned to use the doll to send her child love and Reiki healing from the road.

Saturday was my big day—collaging! Unfortunately the day turned out to be cloudy and windy. By 11am, the sun was peeking out, but the wind didn’t cease until after we got some rain. Thankfully, the wind had chased away the few participants before the rain began, and Coyote Sue and I had divvied up and packed away all the art supplies before anything got wet. The RTArt Camp was over.

Participating in the RTArt Camp took a lot out of me. Because none of us figured out how to put up an awning, we sat in the sun for at least five hours a day. Even wearing long sleeves and my hat, that was a lot of sun exposure for me. Our tables were next to the road, so we also had to contend with dust stirred up by the vehicles rolling by. Most folks were courteous and drove slowly, but too many people drove way too fast. I dubbed the second set of people “dust devils.”

While it was easier to meet people at the RTArt table because we already had something to talk about, there was more talking to strangers than I was comfortable with. Not only did I have to speak to people who were interested in what we were doing and wanted to participate, I also had to speak to people who treated us as a general information booth. I didn’t mind when people asked where the labyrinth was or where Nadia was camped; what I minded was when I politely said I didn’t know and people persisted in their questioning. I never had time to go looking for the labyrinth and Nadia never introduced herself and pointed out her rig, so I wasn’t able to offer the detailed information people wanted.

These are jars I decorated during downtime while staffing the RTArt table. I got the beads at the free pile, then sorted them according to color. The jars came from the free pile too; I decorated them with pretty scrapbooking paper and washi tape. Fun!

Several great things did come out of the RTArt Camp.

On the last day of the camp, Coyote Sue and I divvied up all the leftover art supplies, much of which was donated to us or came from the free pile. I ended up with a lot of really useful supplies other folks were done with.

The second good that came from the art camp was getting to spend time with other cool, art-centric folks. As always, I enjoyed spending time and sharing ideas with Coyote Sue, and I met three other super cool artist. I know I’m in good company when I like everyone sitting around the campfire with me, and that happened more than once at the RTArt Camp.

Probably the best thing that came out of the RTArt Camp was a nomadic intentional community for artsy rubber tramps. Different subgroups of the community camp together and make art together. Folks come and go as they please and take turn being the go-to person in the group. I haven’t camped with the group yet, but I hope our paths cross someday.

I made this lanyard from beads I got at the free pile. Do you like it? I’m willing to give it away to someone who needs it. I made it while staffing the table at the RTArt Camp.

I said in my report on the 2018 RTR that my Rubber Tramp Rendezvous days are probably over. If I stick to the decision not to go to future RTRs, that means my RTArt Camp days are over too. While I did enjoy some aspects of the art camp very much, it also took a lot out of me. I might do better camping with a small group of like-minded rubber tramps.

I took all of the photos in this post. Thanks to the artists who allowed me to share their work.

 

The RTArt Camp (Part 1)

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I helped Coyote Sue make this banner. I took this photo of it too!

The RTArt Camp was all Coyote Sue’s idea.

Coyote Sue’s first Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was in 2017. It was a particularly cold and rainy January in Quartzsite, and Coyote Sue found herself spending a lot of time alone in her rig working on art projects. Wouldn’t it be fun to do art with my friends at the RTR? she thought. The RTArt Camp was born with that thought.

I told Coyote Sue I would help her with the RTArt Camp if I made it to the RTR. I knew I didn’t want sole responsibility for the art camp, and for months I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend the RTR. I think it was December before I committed to being there. If I hadn’t told Coyote Sue I’d be there, I probably would have decided not to go or at least left early.

Coyote Sue discussed the RTArt Camp with the main organizer of the RTR because she wanted the art camp to be part of the larger gathering. We could have gone off and had our own gathering nearby (or far away) but that was never our intention. The organizer knew we were coming and offered to set aside space for the art camp.

Coyote Sue was on the Cheap RV Living forums for months, telling CRVL regulars about the plans for the RTArt Camp. Apparently, about 20 people expressed interest in being involved with the RTArt Camp, but at least some of those folks were stationed in the main camp, while the RTArt Camp ended up away from the main meeting area. Unfortunately, as Coyote Sue said, we just never worked out a way to coordinate what we were doing with things going on three washes away.

I arrived at the RTR before Coyote Sue, on the day before the gathering officially began. I’d hoped Coyote Sue would arrive first or that she and I could find the organizers together and learn the location of the RTArt Camp. Instead, Coyote Sue’s Class C was having problems with overheating, and she was stuck waiting on repairs 20 miles away. Claiming the art camp’s space fell to me.

Coyote Sue contacted the main organizer via email and let him know I’d be arriving without her and he should show me the area set aside for the art camp. He responded by saying no space had been saved for the RTArt Camp. He said by the time he arrived at Scaddan Wash, early birds had already set up in the place where he’d planned to put us. (I have no idea if the early birds were asked to move or even told they were in a space intended for the art camp.) We would have to secure our own location.

The camping areas around the spot left open for the seminars, the main fire pit, the free pile, and the bulletin board were already packed when I drove through. I saw a few spaces where my van would have fit comfortably, but there was not enough space for my rig, Coyote Sue’s rig, The Man’s rig, and the rigs of other folks who might want to join the camp. Even if we parked two feet from each other, where would we put our tables?

I drove around in an increasing panic for a while until The Man talked to a fellow who gave us a tip. He suggested we go to the RTR Music road and veer immediately to the left. We took the stranger’s advice and found a roomy spot for our camp. Of course, the problem now was our distance from the center of the gathering and the presence of a rather large wash between us and the main camp.

I was so happy when Coyote Sue pulled in late that afternoon. After her Class C was repaired, she’d planned to do laundry, take a shower, fill her water tanks, and spend a night in an RV park in town. However, once she got to Quartzsite, she decided she’d rather hang out with me! I was glad to hear she was fine with our location. What a joy to have a friend and co-organizer who believes things work out the way they’re supposed to and there’s no reason to get upset or stress out.

The next morning, Coyote Sue and I carefully crossed the wash, her with her cane and me with my walking stick, to make an announcement at the morning seminar welcoming folks to Quartzsite and the RTR. Instead of letting us make our announcement before the seminar began, as is usually the case with announcements, Bob launched right into talking about trash, feces, and showers. We sat there with hundreds of other attendees through Bob’s talk as well as little speeches by three agents of the Bureau of Land Management, until suddenly, in the middle of everything, Bob gave us the floor and let us tell folks about the RTArt Camp.

The first day of the RTR, we had a meet and greet at the art camp for folks who wanted to teach a class or lead an activity. Maybe ten people showed up, but that was enough to schedule an activity every day of the RTR. Several of the people at the meeting were already parked nearby, and others decided to move their rigs so they too could camp near the art camp.

Isn’t my nametag lovely? I blinged it out in the RTArt Camp. I took this photo of it too.

Coyote Sue called the idea I had on the first day “open studio.” Basically, we spread out art supplies on our two tables and invited people to embellish their nametag (or create a nametag from scratch), make a postcard, or spruce up something from their rig. Over the ten days of the RTR, many people spent some time being creative at the RTArt Camp. I think we did a good job reaching out to and engaging folks who didn’t consider themselves artists or even particularly artistic.

A lot happened at the RTArt Camp, and I had a lot to say about it…so this post was running really long. I decided to turn it into a two-part saga, so click here to read the second part of my report on the RTArt Camp,

Update on the 2018 RTR

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It’s just not the same, I heard a variety of people say about the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

Well, no, it wasn’t the same.

This year wasn’t the same as the first RTR I attended in 2015. That year, the people who’d been attending since the early days of the gathering were complaining—or at least observing—that the RTR wasn’t like it once was.

The biggest change is always the increase in attendance. In 2015, when maybe 100 people were at the RTR, founders of the event remembered fondly when only 40 people attended and everyone sat around the fire together and shared food at community meals.

The community meals were one of my favorite parts of the RTR in 2015 and 2016, but they were left off the schedule in 2017 because the group had grown too large for anyone not experienced in cooking for crowds to prepare soup or chili for everyone. No one stepped up to the challenge, so that avenue of socializing was no longer available to me and others who used the excuse of food as a good reason to gather and mingle.

I’ve heard varying estimates of how many people attended the 2018 RTR. I’m sure Bob Wells put up a video on his You Tube channel where he names a figure. A New York Times article about this year’s Rendezvous said the BLM estimated the number to be over 3,000. Even without knowing exactly how many people attended over ten days, I can tell you, the 2018 RTR was huge!

The RTR was already huge the day before it officially started.

I was working with my friend Coyote Sue to make the RTArt Camp happen. Unfortunately, Coyote Sue was stuck 20 miles up the road with her broke down Class C, so the task of finding the space set aside for the RTArt Camp fell to me. When Coyote Sue contacted the main RTR organizer to say I’d be arriving first, she was told no space was being held for the art camp because when the organizers arrived, early birds had taken the area that was supposed to be for us. (I have no idea if those early birds were asked to move or even told they were parked in an area intended for a planned RTR activity.)

Because no space had been held for the RTArt Camp, The Man and I were tasked with finding a good spot. It was before noon on the day before the gathering began, and people were already packed in pretty close. There was no space to accommodate several rigs plus several tables anywhere near the main seminar area.

I was growing increasingly stressed. I could handle claiming a spot that had been earmarked for me, but finding and staking out a spot on my own was not an easy task. I was really worried about picking a spot Coyote Sue was going to hate. (I shouldn’t have worried. Coyote Sue is always easygoing and believes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She is a pleasure to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed assisting her with the art camp.)

Thankfully, The Man talked to a guy who gave us the tip to immediately veer to the left after we pulled onto the music camp road. We took his suggestion and found a roomy spot in an area that wasn’t too crowded. The RTArt Camp was about a five minute walk from the main gathering area, but the necessary crossing of a quite deep wash kept some artsy folks, especially folks with disabilities, away.

Coyote Sue and I went to the seminar on the first official day of the RTR to make an announcement about the activities going on at the art camp. Literally hundreds of people were gathered to learn the basics of the RTR in particular and Quartzsite in general. Instead of letting us make our announcement first, Bob made us wait until sometime in the middle of his presentation. I hadn’t planned to stay for the seminar, but because I was there, I got to hear some of what Bob told the masses.

After asking everyone in the audience to turn off their recording devices, he said he wanted to be the only person recording and posting videos of the seminars online. Then he asked people to request permission from other folks before taking their photo or including them in videos. He pointed out that some people are in situations where it is unsafe for their image to appear online, but then said if keeping one’s image off the internet was a matter of life or death, folks in such a situation should probably leave because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Bob went on to talk a lot about how all of us there were part of a tribe and how we should be kind to each other and kind to the earth. He said he was happy to see all of us, whether we’d been on the road for 20 years or if the night before was the first time we’d slept in our car. He said we all needed each other and the most important part of the RTR was meeting people and making friends. It was an inspiring little speech, and I left feeling good, although I was happy enough to get the heck out of there after Coyote Sue and I finally make our announcement.

As in years past, the free pile was a highlight of the RTR for me. This year I was much farther from it than in years past, so I was able to check it less often. Still, I found lots of great stuff, including several bags of mostly glass beads and colorful plastic “jewels.” I took what I wanted and donated the rest to the RTArt Camp. I also got an orange t-shirt, an orange striped cloth tote bag, a bright pair of sneakers, a pair of Minnetonka moccasins (which I immediately lost, never to see again), and an easily rolled up sleeping pad from Land’s End. The Man got a really nice, large backpack (so he left his too-small Kelty backpack in the pile for someone else to enjoy), a Nalgene water bladder backpack, and a warm Carhartt jacket in pretty good condition. Jerico wasn’t left out; we got him a soft bed and a thin blanket so he can sleep comfortably and be covered but not get too hot. I didn’t find as much food as I did in years past, maybe because I was being picky about what I grabbed. (I could have acquired ten pounds of white rice, but I’d rather eat brown.) I did get a hug bag of caramel kettle corn, a can of garbanzo beans, and a jar of vegetable spice.

Privacy did turn out to be a huge concern. For one thing, even in our less densely populated area, there were lots of people. Sometimes after dark it would have been easier to squat outside to pee, but there was too much potential of being seen from the rigs all around. I wasn’t so much shy as concerned with offending people who didn’t want to accidentally see me with my pants down.

About a week into the gathering, an old guy with a drone made camp across a small wash from us. He flew his drone for hours each day. The buzz the device made was irritating, and friends camped nearby reported the man flew the drone right into or hovered over their camps several times. We assumed the drone had a camera, but we didn’t know if he was taking photos or video and if he was, if he then posted the media online.

One evening as I was cooking dinner, a young man walked into our camp with a recording device. Can I record that? he asked as he pointed his device towards the potatoes frying in the cast iron skillet.

Sure, I said, as long as you don’t record me.

I found out later that he did record me. He recorded me saying don’t record me, and put my face up on the internet saying those very words.

He apparently was recording other women too, voicing over disparaging comments about the women, then sharing those videos on the internet. My friends said he was also recording the seminars and posting them online along with his comments, despite Bob’s request that folks not record and post the seminars. When my friend contacted the RTR organizers to let them know what this guy was doing, she was told don’t let it bother you. I understand if the organizers felt there was nothing they could do to stop the guy (although I don’t know if any of the organizers sought him out to discuss his behavior), but the response of don’t let it bother you seemed to me and my friends as if the concerns weren’t being taken seriously.

One afternoon a woman approached the RTArt Camp table with her camera pointed at us. When Coyote Sue told her not everyone sitting there wanted to be in the photo, the woman went on a diatribe about how we were at a public event and we couldn’t expect privacy. She said at a public event, anyone could legally take our photos. She went on to say she understood our concern because someone had tried to film an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she’d been in at the RTR, and she’d had to shut that down.

The facilitator of the women’s meeting asked that no on record the meeting (video or audio) or take photos of the folks there. Hopefully, no one disregarded her request. She also asked that if and when men approached the group, someone get up and gently explain a women-only meeting was taking place. Instead, the men who approached the group were met with shouts and jeers. They know. They know, women muttered when men approached, believing men where purposely trying to eavesdrop and infringe on our privacy. Maybe that was the case with a few of the handful of men who walked up to our group, but I think most were just clueless. It would have been kinder—and far less disruptive to our group—if, as the facilitator had requested, one woman had quietly stood up, explained to the interloper what was happening, and requested he leave.

The first women’s meeting was huge, by the way. There must have been two or three hundred women there. The facilitator reported it was the first RTR women’s meeting where everyone in attendance did not get the opportunity to speak. Instead, new women introduced themselves, then women with lots of experience introduced themselves.  After an hour of introductions, the large group broke up to give everyone a chance to mingle. I mingled by carrying Lady Nell’s chair back to her camp and then helping some women with disabilities coordinate rides. I’m not very good at mingling with strangers.

So no, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous is not the same. It will never be what it once was. It was a backyard picnic and now [it’s a] state fair, Auntie M said about the RTR. I think the gathering can still be a good place for people to learn how to live nomadically, and—probably more importantly—meet other nomads. For folks who don’t mind crowds and the possibility of having their faces recorded and shared on the internet at every turn, the RTR can be a great place to learn and network. However, I’m pretty sure my RTR days are over.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017

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Here it is August, and I haven’t yet published a report on January’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Better late than never?

There were a lot of people in the RTR section of Scaddan Wash in January 2017. I never did a count of my own, but I heard reports of upwards of 600 people there. I don’t know how anyone was able to arrive at a figure. Were rigs counted? If yes, how did the counter know how many people were staying in each rig? When was the counting (of rigs or people) done? People and rigs came and went througout the entire time the RTR was underway. Folks were here today, gone tomorrow, back on Wednesday. I don’t know how an accurate count could be made with all of that coming and going.

In any case, there were a lot of people in the RTR area, way more than when I attended in 2015 or 2016.

There were also more people there this time in fancy, shiny, expensive rigs. I wondered if those people had missed the tramp part of the rendezvous or the cheap in the name of the Cheap RV Living website. Mostly, I wondered what the folks with money were getting out of a gathering where people learn how to stretch their precious few dollars in order to live a life of freedom. I guess learning how to find free public land on which to boondock is the same whether one’s living in a 90s era converted cargo van or a brand new Dodge Sprinter.

So many people arrived early, there was demand for a seminar before the Rendezvous had officially begun. I sat through the beginning of that one. It consisted mostly of folks who’d never attended the RTR asking questions, and the organizer of the event saying those questions would be answered at a seminar held later in the gathering. After a while, I got tired of hearing questions I knew the answers to not being answered, so I grabbed my chair and left.

I did attend the official Welcome to Quartzsite seminar. I don’t think I learned anything new. The seminar seating was definitely crowded that morning; I’d guess there were a couple hundred people there, but I’m not so good at estimating attendance. Again, people mostly seemed to be newcomers.

Although I didn’t attend any other seminars, I did attend the two women’s meetings. Both of those meetings were also crowded. At the first one, the facilitator offered a list of questions each woman could answer by way of introduction. During the explanation of how the introductions would work, the facilitator instructed us to limit our intros to two sentences so everyone would get to speak during the meeting’s two-hour time frame. Most women were able to limit themselves, but others went on for paragraph after paragraph. Some ramblers even seemed offended when the facilitator gently reminded them of the two sentence limit.

I wondered why the longwinded women thought they were more important than the rest of us who had complied with the two-sentence limit. Did they really think the rest of us wanted to sit and listen to them drone on and on about themselves? I, for one, did not.

When I arrived the next week for the second women’s meeting, I was shocked to see a documentary film crew setting up to record the discussion. I was astounded to find most of the women in attendance had no objection to being filmed. I said I did not want to be filmed and offered to leave rather than cause a problem, but the woman doing the filming said she’d turn off the camera and sound recording equipment whenever I spoke. Despite her offer (which I believe was made in good faith), I mostly remained silent and kept my head down throughout the meeting.

It was probably my last women’s meeting in an RTR context. The new gals tend to want to discuss things I feel like I’ve already figured out–how to go to the bathroom in the van, how to feel safe, how to keep from feeling lonely. I’m not sure what things I don’t know about that I need to talk about in a women-only group, but I know we’ll never get there if we have to talk about elimination and personal safety every year. Also, if the meetings are being recorded and I don’t want to be recorded, what am I contributing while sitting there silently with my head down?

I was primarily at the RTR to promote my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. I feel like my sucess in this endeavor was limited at best.

Coyote Sue and I shared billing at a late afternoon seminar. She was to talk about selling on Ebay while on the road, and I was to talk about being a camp host and to read from my book. We got rained out. We postponed the seminar for later in the evening. We were finally able to give our presentations to a small group before the sun went down. Everyone in attendance listened politely when I read, but I think most of the folks there wanted to hear what Coyote Sue had to say.

My main reading, the one I’d promoted throughout the RTR, was a huge disappointment. Only a handful of people attended, most of them people I already knew. Again, people were attentive, and they laughed in the right places, but since I’d been hoping for a crowd, seeing less than a dozen people in the audience made me feel a little sad.

I sold some copies of the book at the RTR, but I barely made a dent in the 100 copies I’d had printed. Perhaps I should have dreamed smaller.

Because I was trying to promote my book, I’d set up camp near the main gathering spot. I was close to the free pile and close enough to pop in at morning announcement to mention my book, hats, etc for sale.  This proximity to all the action meant my privacy was often invaded, especially, it seemed, as I was trying to cook dinner in the evening. I spent quite a bit of time feeling I had nowhere to hide. Honestly, I don’t mind answering questions (even the same question for the 10th time) but maybe don’t try to interrogate me when I’m obviously busy.

Because there were so many people at the RTR, the group meals were cancelled. The chef who’d bottomlined the soup and chilli dinners in 2015 and 2016 had to work for money in 2017 and wasn’t able to attend the RTR. The main organizer didn’t feel able to make the dinners happen successfully with so many eaters on hand, and no one with experience with feeding crowds steppd up to the challenge. I didn’t hear an official statement of why the potato bake didn’t happen, but I’m guess the couple who’d hosted it in the past didn’t feel up to the logistical nighmare of feeding the teeming masses. I was disappointed the meals were cancelled because at the previous RTR’s they’d served as my prime opportunity for social interaction. (One fellow did provide a bunch of hot dogs for a hot dog dinner early in the gathering, but I didn’t attend since I don’t eat hot dogs.)

I don’t know if there’s another Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in my future. I don’t know where I’ll be in January 2018. Also, I don’t know if I can learn anything new from the RTR. If I go to another RTR, it will be mostly to visit with friends.

If I do go to another RTR, I expect there will be a lot of people there. Folks can’t expect a free event to be promoted far and wide on the internet and not get crowded. If I attend another RTR, I’m going to park away from the main gathering areas, on the outskirts, where I can cook without an audience.

I took the photo in this post.

You can read about my experiences at past Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: the first week in 2015, the second week in 2015, some thoughts on the 2015 RTR2016, the first women’s meeting in 2015, the second women’s meeting in 2015, the free pile at the RTR, and Burning Van.

The Free Pile at the RTR

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One of my favorite things about both the 2015 and 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) gatherings were the free piles. Both years, organizers set up an area where people cold leave things they didn’t want and other folks could pick up anything they did want, all with no monetary exchange or bartering. I love gift economy!

I don’t remember everything I gave away the first year, but I know I added to the pile. Likewise, I don’t remember everything I took from the free pile either, but I know I got one of the items I use most in van life from there: my pee bucket. It’s plastic, with a cover that latches on tightly. The lid has a handle too, which makes carrying the bucket over to a bush or a pit toilet very convenient. To make the fact that I’m transporting urine in it less obvious, I wrapped it in pink duct tape. Thanks free pile!

This year I added two books, a pair of worn-only-once black leggings, a small plate, multiple glue sticks, and other odds and ends I can’t remember to the free pile. (I should have written an inventory of what I contributed.) In return, I got so many good things, even though I was being really picky about what I took back to the van, since I’m trying to live with less, not collect more stuff I don’t really need.

I picked up quite a bit of food from the free pile this year. Early on, I got two cans of vegetarian refried beans and two large cans of tuna. Later I picked up a sealed box of whole grain spaghetti. After the soup dinner, the head cook contributed to the free pile all the cans of food not used for the soup or chili dinners. I picked up a small box of vegan, organic black bean soup; a jar of organic spaghetti sauce; another can of vegetarian refried beans; a can of black beans; two cans of garbanzo beans; a can of sliced carrots; five cans of diced tomatoes; and three cans of chili beans.

One day I dug through the piles of clothing and found a brightly colored fleecy Cuddl Duds brand shirt. It was only a large, and I usually wear XXL shirts, but it looked rather big, so I took it to my van home anyway. Because the fabric was stretchy, it fit me, albeit snugly. It was very warm and comfy, and I wore it on two of the coldest nights at the RTR.

A few days later, I was poking through the free clothes (not that I need any more clothes) and found a bright purple (with silver sparkles) furry sweater that I immediately loved. I was super excited when I looked at the tag and found the size: XXL! Score! The sweater was in excellent condition, and I wore it throughout the rest of the RTR. (I returned the slightly too small Cuddl Duds shirt to the free pile in hopes it would be found and loved by someone it fit better.)

Although lots of books were dropped off at the free pile, I already had lots of books in the van, so I was very particular about what I took. I did pick up one hardback book that looked entertaining. It’s called Cinnamon and Gunpowder, and it was written by Eli Brown. It’s a novel about a fancy chef who’s kidnapped by a female pirate, and it turned out to be a great read. At the end of the gathering, I couldn’t resist picking up Almost French, a memoir by Sarah Turnbull about being an  Aussie in Paris in the mid 90s.

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This is the chair I scored from the RTR free pile.

Possibly the best item I got from the free pile (it’s a tossup between this and the furry purple sweater), is a very sturdy folding camp chair complete with a folding tray on the side. When I first tried to lift the tray, it was difficult to move, due to some rust. Thanks to a squirt of WD40 (Thanks, Miz Sassy!), I got the tray sliding easily. The top surface of the tray had some (water?) damage, so I decided to collage and decoupage.

This is how the tray looked when I got the chair from the free pile.

This is how the tray looked when I got the chair from the free pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is how the tray looks after my collage and decoupage action. The map is of New Mexico. (It only shows Taos to Socorro.) Many of the other images are of or remind me of the Southwest.

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Organizer pockets originally on my from-the-free-pile folding chair, now on my passenger seat. I can easily grab my water bottle while I’m driving because it’s not rolling around on the floor. My phone goes in one of the top pockets.

The side of the chair without the tray sported a really nice set of pockets. The pocket bag was attached to the chair with hook and loop fasteners, so it was really easy to remove. I attached the pocket bag to the arm of my passenger seat with large safety pins, so now i have a handy place to keep my water bottle, phone, insurance papers, and van registration while I’m driving.

I always have a great time looking through free piles, and I particularly enjoy finding a few great pieces that make my life a little more comfortable. The RTR free pile hasn’t let me down.

Burning Van

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On the last Sunday of the RTR, I was sitting with folks on Lady Nell and Mr. Jay’s patio. Kay and Tommy came over and told us the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous would soon be transformed into Burning Van.

They’d fashioned a van from cardboard and were walking around the gathering with the cardboard van and a fistful of markers so anyone and everyone could help decorate the effigy. The time and place for the sacrifice of the van was decided: 7pm on that very night at the main fire pit.

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The date and time of Burning Van was written on the top of the van.

It was cool to see folks participate in the decorating. People drew pictures IMG_4477

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I decorated the wheels.

or wrote witty words or just signed their names. Throughout the afternoon, folks added their individual touches to the cardboard van.

 

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By 6:30, the sky was dark, the main fire was blazing, IMG_4482and people were gathering around. For the next half hour, people arrived to witness the sacrificial burning. In the minutes leading up to the sacrifice, more and more folks left their marks on the van.

While we waited for 7pm, we were treated to a chorus singing a song folks had collaborated on to sum up the RTR. Sung to the tune of “Little Boxes,” (the theme song for the Showtime series Weeds, written, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvina_Reynolds,by Malvina Reynolds), the song went like this:

little vans out in the desert

little vans all made of ticky tacky

little vans out in the desert

little vans and none the same

 

there’s a white one and a white one

and a white one and a flowered one

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and there’s none two just the same

 

and the people are rubber trampers

the nicest people anywhere

and they won’t be put in boxes

and they won’t be all the same

 

we are friendly we are family

we love to get together, in the desert,

in the desert, where the terrain is all the same

 

and the dogs are pretty aswesome and never pass up doggie treats

there are big dogs and little dog[s] and fast dogs and happy dogs

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and none look just the same

and we have no pavilion, no bathhouse,

no central stage

but we do have a fire pit where friendships are made

we’re all made out of ticky tacky and none think all the same

 

there’s a white one and a white one

and a white one and a flowered one

and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and there’s none two just the same

 

After the singing, someone asked for the time. I looked at my watch. It’s seven! It’s seven! I said.

Someone behind me (Miz Sassy, if I had to guess) started in with Bong!

Bong! Bong! many of us chimed in seven times. Seconds after the seventh bong, Tommy carried the cardboard van to the fire pit and deposited it in the flames.

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It caught fire quickly, and there were hoots, hollers, and cheers from the the crowd. It didn’t take long for the van to be reduced to ashes and embers.

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The van went from this IMG_4472 to this IMG_4509 in a few brief minutes.

I hope the fun and comradery of Burning Van happens again at the 2017 RTR.

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I took all the photos in this post.