Turf War (Part 2)

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Lighted Bonfire PhotographyBonus blog day! Yesterday’s post ended up being quite long, so I decided to break it into two parts. Today you can read about what happened when three sets of people wanted to use one group campground and I was unsure as to who actually had the reservation.

I walked over to the other group trying to use the campground. A mildly distressed looking woman sat in a camp chair holding an infant.   A couple of little kids were milling about. A man approached me, and I suspected he was the man I’d been warned about. He was in his late 30s and had a big red beard and wore a ball cap.

I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Samson. I explained there was some confusion about who had reserved the campground. I indicated the people who were packing up and said we’d determined they didn’t have a reservation, and they were leaving. I explained another woman said her group had reserved the campground, and I was trying to help determine who was supposed to be there.

Now who are you? Samson asked me. I could tell he was trying very hard to stay polite but was beyond frustrated.

It was a fair question. I’d taken off my uniform and was wearing a tattered tie-dyed t-shirt and a colorful batik skirt. I looked like any other middle age hippie in the woods.

I explained to Samson that I worked for the company that managed the campground, and while I wasn’t the camp host, I lived in the campground and was trying to help figure out who actually had a reservation. Samson relaxed a little when he realized I was trying to help, probably because he was confident in his claim on the campground and assumed I’d be kicking out everyone else and allowing him to stay.

He said his brother made the reservation. I called over the young woman with the long dark hair, but she and Samson didn’t know each other. The young woman said her group’s reservation was under the name Gloria Lang. That was not a name Samson recognized. I went over to see what name was on the reservation card clipped to the pole, but the camp host had forgotten to hang a card. It didn’t look like I’d be able to solve this mystery unless I left the campground. I explained to both parties that I’d drive down to the other campground and speak to the camp hosts. Both Samson and the young woman seemed to appreciate my offer to help.

Javier and Sandra, the camp hosts, were surprised to see me when I arrived at their campground. I explained what was going on, and Sandra pulled out an arrival report and determined the reservation had been made by Gloria Lang. Mystery solved!

We decided we should tell Samson where he needed to go to meet his brother, so Javier made a list of all the folks scheduled to arrive in his campground that day. Then he called The Big Boss Man and let him know the situation and also got a list of reservations for all the other group sites on our side of the mountain.

Javier hopped into my van, and I drove us down to the group campground. When we arrived, I saw the big group who wanted to camp for free had left. More people in the Lang party had arrived, and Samson’s family was holding steady on the end of the campground they’d staked out. Javier hopped out of my van to talk to Samson, and I walked over to talk to the Lang party. I told those folks the reservation was indeed in their friend’s name and that Javier was explaining things to the other group.

I thought it would take about two minutes for Javier to explain what was going on and for Samson and his family to start packing up, but two minutes stretched into five and then ten. Finally Javier walked over to me and said Samson didn’t want to move and was insisting that he and Javier go to the Mercantile and call The Big Boss Man together.

Good luck! I told Javier, and I drove my van over to my camp. The Lang party turned on their electronic dance Tents Surrounded by Treesmusic and began unpacking.

The next morning I asked Javier what had happened when he left with Samson, and I got the full scoop.

It turned out that it wasn’t Samson’s brother who’d make the reservation but Samson’s brother’s girlfriend. Samson didn’t know his brother’s girlfriend’s last name, so even if there had been a reservation card clipped to the pole he wouldn’t have necessarily known he was in the wrong place. Samson also repeatedly played the we have a six-month-old baby card as a reason they shouldn’t have to move.

Samson talked to The Big Boss Man, but they couldn’t figure out if his brother was waiting for him in a pay campground or in some boondocking area. Samson continued to insist that he wanted to stay right where he was. The Big Boss Man told him the same thing Javier had been saying: since Gloria Lang was paying $136 a night for the campground, it was up to her who stayed there. Neither Javier nor our boss could force the Lang party to let Samson and his family stay. Also, there was no way for The Big Boss Man to help Samson find his brother if Samson didn’t know what name the reservation was under.

When the conversation with The Big Boss man was over, Javier suggested Samson talk to the Lang party and ask to stay in the campground with them for one night. He suggested Samson mention that it was getting dark and mention the baby in hopes that the Lang party would have pity and let the family stay. Then in the morning he could search for his brother. Samson insisted Javier go back to the group campground with him and use his position as camp host to influence the Lang party.

They got to the campground and the situation was explained to Samson’s wife. When she found out Gloria Lang had the legitimate reservation, she said no way were they staying where they weren’t wanted. It probably didn’t help that while Samson was away the mosquitoes had come out and were eating her and the kids alive.

Samson asked Javier where they should go. Javier told him about three boondocking areas he knew of.

Samson wanted to know what they would do if there were already people on a boondocking spot when they arrived. Javier told him that’s why he’d told Samson about three different places.

Samson asked Javier to ride with them and help them find a boondocking spot. Javier said no.

Then Samson asked Javier to help him take down the tent and pack their gear.

Look man, Javier told me he said, I’ve been working all day. I just want to go home and eat dinner. No, I’m not helping you take down your tent and pack your gear.

I believe it was then that Samson refused to give Javier a ride back to his campground as he’d previously promised to do. Javier didn’t want to bother me (although I would have happily given him a ride), so he hoofed it home.

I didn’t know any of these details when near dark I saw Samson’s jeep pulling his cargo trailer head up the road and out of the campground. All I knew was that the interlopers were gone, and the Lang party and I had the campground to ourselves.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/lighted-bonfire-photography-1434598/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/tents-surrounded-by-trees-1309584/.

Turf War (Part 1)

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Independence Day had been on Wednesday and was pretty low-key. I’d gone into work for a couple of hours at midday to help out, even though it was officially my day off. The Mercantile had been pretty much dead while I was there, but over the course of the day managed to do respectable sales.

I had the whole day off on the 5th of July, then was back to work on Friday the 6th. It was a hot day with only a little breeze, and problems with the Mercantile’s power supply kept the swamp cooler off. My thick shirt and the apron on top did nothing to help the situation, and a couple of times during the day I stood next to my van and poured water over my head and neck in hopes of cooling myself off.

Ushering out the last customers and locking the Mercantile’s door at five o’clock was a joy. I couldn’t wait to change my clothes and have some quiet time.

Black Bird on Brown GrassI was staying at the group campground now, and there had been no campers for a week. I’d only seen birds out there—an enormous robin, a pair of quail, two talkative brown birds I couldn’t identify, a brilliant red-throated humming bird that hovered next to the van’s side mirror before flitting away—and I’d been enjoying the solitude. The camp host who lived half a mile down the road but cared for the group campground reminded me that my home turf was reserved for the weekend; the campers would arrive sometime on Friday and depart by Sunday afternoon.

If anyone bothers you, Sandra the camp host told me, tell them I’ll be around tomorrow to check them in.

The group campground was full of activity when I arrived. At least five vehicles and a cargo trailer were parked at the far end, and probably a dozen people were bustling around, unpacking cars and setting up tents.

I parked my van at my camp and decided I would read for a while before I cooked dinner. I changed out of my uniform and into cooler clothes, then sat outside in the shade with my back to the camper commotion.

I hadn’t even read a page when a pickup truck stopped on the road next to my campsite. The driver was a young woman with long dark hair and glasses. Excuse me, she said.

Here we go, I thought.

It boiled down to this: The young woman was the first of her group to arrive. Her group had reserved the campground. The reservation was in her brother’s girlfriend’s name, but she didn’t know any of the people who were already in the campground setting up.

Oh, that *was* a problem.

I explained to the young woman that I wasn’t the camp host but did work for the company that managed the campground. I offered to talk to the other campers and try to sort out who they were and where they belonged. She seemed grateful for my offer, and we walked over to where people where setting up camp.

The oldest person in the group was the closest as I approached. He was probably in his late 50s and had completely grey hair cut short. He was thickly built and wore long shorts and a tank top.

Excuse me, I said to this man who appeared to be the patriarch. Do you have a reservation?

No, he didn’t have a reservation. This was a free area, open to everyone, he told me with complete conviction. He Six Camping Tents in Forestdidn’t have a reservation, and he didn’t need one is basically what he said. I don’t know where this man had come from, but he seemed very East Coast to me. He was quite sure of himself, but he was oh so wrong.

It was one of my finest moments. I very calmly and patiently explained to him that we were in a group campground that cost $136 per night to rent and had been reserved by another group.

The fellow dropped his bravado. I think he knew he had no claim to the campground, or maybe it was the mention of the $136 per night fee that did him in.

He did try to tell me that a camp host had told them they could camp in the group campground for free. I think we both knew that was a lie we could generously call a misunderstanding. I knew no camp host would tell people they could stay in a fee area for free.

Are y’all looking for free camping? I asked the man with the grey hair.

We want any camping, a younger guy who’d been listening to our conversation piped in.

I gave them a general idea of where they could find primitive camping (there will be no restroom and no picnic tables, I explained to them, and you’ll need a fire permit to have a campfire), and I could tell the men had accepted the fact that they’d have to leave.

Watch out for that guy over there, the many with grey hair warned me. One of our kids ran through his camp and he yelled at her, he said.

Wait. What? I asked. Those people over there aren’t a part of your group?

Nope. Those people weren’t part of the grey-haired man’s group. That’s when I realized not two but three groups were trying to lay claim to the group campground. What a headache!

As I walked away from the man with grey hair, I heard him and the younger guy telling the rest of their party that they had to pack everything and move. I also heard someone say, He told us to go three mile, but we only went half a mile. I didn’t realize what that meant until later when Javier the camp host down the road told me he’d told the grey-haired man to go three miles and turn down the road on the left to find free camping. Obviously the group had only gone half a mile down the road, turned left into the clearly marked group campground, and convinced themselves they could camp there for free.

This story turned out to be a long one, so I decided to make a two-parter. Don’t worry, I’ll only make you wait until tomorrow to find out what happened when three sets of people all wanted to stay in one group campground.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-bird-on-brown-grass-1309237/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/six-camping-tents-in-forest-699558/.

Traveling Successfully as a Recovering Addict (Guest Post)

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Love to travel but worried that being away from home is going to make it difficult to stay sober? Today’s guest post from Patrick Baily gives you plenty of tips for staying sober on the road.

Man Wearing White Shirt, Brown Shorts, and Green Backpack Standing on Hill

Traveling has always been a part of life since I was a child. When I started working, I was able to afford to travel to more distant places with family and friends. However, when I started on my path of recovery from drug addiction, I had to live differently than I had in the past. I had to do things differently when I traveled too.

I realized things needed to change during a trip when I almost lost my life. It was a good thing my family was around. I decided to stop traveling and get myself into the 12 step program for addiction. Now that I can handle myself so much better with the help of the skills I learned during my stay in a rehabilitation facility, I have put on my traveling shoes again.

My first attempt was a fairly short drive away from home. I tested my resolve to stick to my sobriety with an overnight stay at a familiar resort near my place.

At first, I was really scared because I had a lot of memories there. A lot were good ones, especially with family and some friends, but I cannot deny there were also days I would rather forget connected to my drug addiction. Thankfully, I learned in my 12 step program that I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge what happened before, learn from it, and improve.

So I pursued that overnight stay in the resort cautiously with my family around. This trip led to another, and I slowly traveled farther away.

As I progressed with my rehabilitation I came across some good reading on solo traveling. I was now ready to take my yearly summer break to the next level.  I was going to a place I’d never been, a place my soul had always wanted to set my foot.

This was just one of the places I wanted to visit. I wanted to make this first long solo trip a success in hopes it would be the start of successful travels throughout my life. I packed light but full of learning from my 12-step program and my friends from the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings I attended.

First things first. I packed my journal where I record my 12-step

Journal Book

experiences. I cannot and should not go without it because it is my map to sober days ahead. It reminds me of my successes and why I should stay sober throughout my trip. I bring it with me because I do not want to fail, not this time, not ever again!

My desire to complete the whole trip clean and sober led me to consult with my therapist and doctor. I wanted to make sure they knew where I am going and what I would be doing so they could be only a call away when I was traveling.

I requested they help me prepare a plan that I could follow while I was away.

  • I asked them what necessities to bring; I only wanted to bring what was safe for me.
  • I downloaded a 12-step app on my phone in case I needed more resources during my travels.
  • I made sure I had contact numbers of my therapist and doctor, so I could easily reach out to them.
  • I also made sure they had my emergency contact information: my family, friends, and sponsors. I made sure this information was accessible to my support people.
  • I brought along a map. I don’t mean the ordinary kind you can buy of the streets of the area where you are headed. I have learned that it is not sufficient to know the landmarks and the sights to see in the country. It is vital to know where you can be when you are done savoring the beauty of the area. I highlighted the places where I could be safe and stay sober.

I also made sure that I knew the times and locations for all the NA and other 12-step meetings in the area. That’s always good information, but I did not settle for that. Awareness is not sufficient. The people would surely welcome me when I walked into their meetings and introduced myself as one of them, but it is different when someone looks for you to remind you they are there waiting for you. I knew that I should have someone who would be ready to usher me to the meetings.

Your tired feet will have to rest for a while and the safest resting places are with the people who know your battle. Having bottles all around you can be disturbing, even if you don’t have an addiction to alcohol. I should stay away from addicts and temptations and spend time with those who are sober enough to guide me.

So, I contacted a few local people ahead of time. I got to know them, and they me even before meeting. Our initial conversations showed me that they know the country well. They shared other spots to visit that I didn’t find on the Internet.

The best part of our initial contact was that it gave them ample time to arrange their schedules to fit mine. They offered to tag along on my travel. They were very generous to open up their lives so that I could safely visit their country’s beautiful sights.

At first, I was hesitant because I knew it would take so much of their time. But then again, I needed to be surrounded by the right people. It is a nice feeling when someone is looking forward to meeting you. I was also ecstatic to meet them.

People Forming Round by Shoes

They were also excited that they will be meeting others in the area whom they have not met before. We have created a nice little group of addicted individuals—not to feed our addictions to drugs or alcohol but to enjoy our lives sober.

I was all packed, light but full. I was determined to remain sober, yes, but I also to find the adventure of a lifetime, to go to places I had never been but where my soul has always wanted to be.

I was free and I could travel with my 12 step program for addiction in my pocket.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. Read more of Patrick’s writing on his blog and contact him at baileypatrick780@gmail.com.

Find Patrick on social media!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

Google+: https://plus.google.com/112748498348796236865

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Please remember that neither Blaize Sun nor Patrick Baily is a health care professional. Please consult a health care professional about your particular situation. This article is simply a starting point for your research. Only you are responsible for you.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-wearing-white-shirt-brown-shorts-and-green-backpack-standing-on-hill-672358/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-desk-electronics-iphone-1156683/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/brand-trademark-cobblestones-community-denim-pants-609771/.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

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Sign reads Oliver Lee State Park Self Pay Station.

It’s been well over a year since I spent a night at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park near Alamogordo, NM. It was autumn of 2017 when I stayed at the park, and I was sad because The Man and I were in one of our off-again phases. This post will not be the most in-depth of my reports on a New Mexico state park, but I’ll tell you about the basics.

I’d left the primitive camping area at Brantley Lake State park with a final destination of Truth or Consequences, NM. I decided I’d visit White Sands National Monument on my way since I’d never been there before and always heard it was a magnificent place. My New Mexico State Parks Pass was firmly attached to my windshield, so I could camp in any developed site in any New Mexico state park with no out of pocket expense.

Chihuahuan Desert scene with blue sky and whispy white clouds, rugged mountains, and desert plants.
View of mountains surrounding Oliver Lee Memorial State Park with the visitors center visible on the middle of the left side.

I knew Oliver Lee Memorial State Park was a bit out of my way, but I didn’t realize it was quite so far out of my way. I didn’t mind the extra miles I drove to get to the park since my pass got me in at no additional cost. Also, I like to see new places and was enjoying my tour of New Mexico state parks. However, if I didn’t have the annual camping pass, I wouldn’t necessarily to go out of my way to spend one night at the Oliver Lee campground.

I arrived at the state park late in the afternoon, after eating at an Asian buffet in the White Sands Mall in Alamogordo. I drove the 17 miles not really sure where I was going but following the instructions of the Google Maps lady who lived in my phone. I didn’t realize until the next morning that to get to the park, I passed the turn off onto Highway 70, the road that would take me to White Sands National Monument. I typically hate backtracking, but I didn’t stress out too much about it since doing so allowed me to visit a new-to-me state park.

Campsite post in foreground has number 32 on it. Mountain and blue sky in background.
Site #32 Can you see the moon to the right of the mountain?

When I arrived at the campground, I drove around the two loops looking for a developed site with no hookups. I settled on site #32.

I knew I should go to the visitors center and learn something about the area, but I just felt blah. I really only wanted to stay close to my van and digest all the food I’d stuffed down my gullet at the Asian buffet.

I did hang out at the van for a while, then decided I should go for at least a short walk. When I’d arrived at the campground, I saw a sign pointing to Frenchy’s cabin. I wondered who Frenchy was and why s/he had a cabin in the park. I decided to walk over there and investigate.

The remains of Frenchy’s cabin. If I remember correctly, the rock wall is original, but the brick wall has been rebuilt where Frency’s house once stood.

According to a New Mexico website,

In the mid-1880s, a Frenchman named Francois-Jean “Frenchy” Rochas started homesteading at the mouth of Dog Canyon. He built a rock cabin…

Frenchy mysteriously met his end just after Christmas in 1894, when he was found dead in his cabin, a bullet in his chest. Although the local authorities determined it was suicide, historians believe it was more likely that someone murdered him in a dispute.

It sounds like the first chapter of a Tony Hillerman novel or a Western movie starring Clint Eastwood!

After I checked out the remains of Frenchy’s cabin, I took a walk to visit the shower house. I found the facilities clean and well maintained. After using the flush toilet and washing my hands, I went over to one of the showers and turned on the water to determine if it would get hot enough for my comfort. Yet again, I found a New Mexico state park with no hot water in the shower house. While there was NO WAY I was going to take a cold shower, I wasn’t too sad because I was headed to the hot, hot water in the bathhouses in Truth or Consequences.

You may be wondering who in the heck Oliver Lee was. According to the aforementioned New Mexico website,


Oliver Milton Lee, [was] a famous local rancher, who raised both cattle and horses, and was instrumental in the founding of Alamogordo and Otero County. Lee established his ranch south of Dog Canyon in 1893 and lived there until 1907…

During this period, Lee was involved in a controversy involving the disappearance of prominent New Mexico Lawyer, Albert Fountain, and his eight-year old son, Henry. The bodies were never found, the case against Lee and others was circumstantial, Lee was acquitted, although the mystery remains.

Oh boy! Sounds like another Tony Hillerman/Clint Eastwood plot. I guess the wild, wild West was no joke!

Apparently Oliver Lee built a ranch house too and folks can visit it, but only with a guided tour. You can call the park (575-437-8284) to find out when you can take the tour.

Blue sky and mountains and tiny half moon.

Those are the Sacramento Mountains you see in all the photos. They look pretty rugged, don’t you think?

After I determined I would not be taking a cold New Mexico state park shower, I went back to my van and hung out until it was time for bed. I wanted to get to bed early so I could wake up before the sun and head out to White Sands National Monument. Before bed, I decided I should visit the restrooms. Luckily I grabbed my Luci light because it was DARK out there. Some of the RVs had lights on their campsite, but there were no streetlights lighting the way to the restroom. I actually appreciated the lack of light pollution so I could get a good luck at the night sky.

I did go to bed early and I did wake up before the sun. Before I hit the road, I was rewarded with the beautiful beginnings of a sunrise coming over the mountains in the east. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park was a lovely place to wake up.

Brilliant wide yellow swath of sunrise over silhouette of mountains
Sunrise over Oliver Lee State Park.

I took all the photos in this post.


Oh Death

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And then Weasel was gone too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

March 20 was chosen as World Oral Health Day


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

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

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

Gums and Heart

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

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

Dental and Mental Health

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

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

Your Gut, Your Health

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Transit Driver Appreciation Day

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Bus Interior

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

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

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

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

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

White Bus on Road Near in High Rise Building during Daytime

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

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

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

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

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

Red Metal Bars in Side Vehicle

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

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

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

Oh, the awkwardness was not over.

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

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

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


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

We could all hear the growing desperation in her voice.

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

I have to go to the bathroom.

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

I have to go to the bathroom.

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

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

St. Patrick’s Day Limerick Bonus Blog Post

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

There once was a leprechaun named Shorty

who didn’t want to go to the party.

“I’d rather stay home

than ramble and roam.

Besides, I ate beans and feel farty.”

Photo by Anthony from Pexels.

Chicken Nugget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTA: What are you in now?

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

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

Brent: I did.

RTA: And the Prius was…?

Brent: Three years.

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

Brent: This is my second year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTA: Gas meaning propane?

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

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

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

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

Gray Concrete Road Surrounded by Green Grass

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

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

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

RTA:  So super stealthy.

Brent: Yeah.

Fuel Dispenser

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

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

RTA: Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Utah Poster Under Blue Daytime Sky

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

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

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

RTA: What do you dislike about your current rig?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTA: But maybe not the gas mileage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent: No. It was perfectly non-stealthy.

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

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

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

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

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

Brent: That’s correct.

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

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

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

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

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

Round Grey and Black Compass

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

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