Changes for 2018

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New years tend to bring change, and 2018 has been no exception for me. We’re one month in, but things have been happening while posts I scheduled in late December continued to pop up while I’m busy with life.

I helped run the RTArt Camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous from January 10th through the 19th (updates on both the RTR and the art camp are coming up soon), but decided not to stay in Scaddan Wash for the women’s RTR. I was tired of the wind and the dust and the crowds and sitting in the sun for hours a day. Maybe I would have enjoyed meeting new women in a more intimate setting, but honestly, I was worn out from talking to strangers.

I left Quartzsite to move towards one of the biggest changes my life has seen in the last five years. After more than half a decade on the road, I now have a home base in the desert.

At the end of November I was offered a great deal on a 40+ year old fifth wheel. It’s in good shape for its age, and the price was right. Solar panels provide enough electricity to run a radio and lights and to charge my laptop and phone. A hose connects my little home to a water spigot, so I have running water, and a nearby bath house provides flush toilets and hot showers.

Because I’m way out in the desert, staying in the fifth wheel year round is impractical. That’s not a problem though, because my job on the mountain takes me away during the five hottest months of the year. I have the best of both worlds because I can winter in the desert and summer in the mountains.

I wasn’t seeking  this kind of change, but I’m grateful the opportunity fell in my lap. Being a full-time van dweller was fine, and I had a good life, but I’m looking forward to having a home base. Simply being able to store things and not having to travel with every possession I own is going to vastly improve my life (not to mention my gas mileage).

This new year is bringing changes to this blog too. I’ve decided to go to a three-day-a-week publishing schedule. Publishing every day or even every other day makes it really difficult for me to find time to create collages and do other art projects. I’m also hoping that publishing thrice a week will open up time for me to get to work on the next book I’m going to write. The new schedule will have posts appearing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with the possibility of extra posts on special occasions or when I have a particular lot to say.

Wednesday’s posts, while I hope of interest to everyone, will be geared specifically to nomads, boondockers, rubber tramps, work campers, and van dwellers. On Wednesdays I’ll share my tips for getting work, finding places to camp, having fun, staying safe, and generally holding it all together.

I hope long-time readers will continue to join me as my adventures unfold. I hope folks who enjoy this blog will invite their friends to share in the fun. I hope more readers will leave comments here and on the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page. (You can also follow me on my Blaize Sun author’s page on Facebook.)

Thanks for reading and being a part of my world. Here’s hoping 2018 treats all of us well.

Madame

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Madame was a very small dog, although not the smallest I’ve ever met. While she was extremely cute, I didn’t immediately realize she was the traffic-stopping kind of adorable.

The job hadn’t originally involved a dog. The job had started out as a favor, or, more accurately, a mutually beneficial situation. My friend and her family were going away for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I was welcome to stay at their house while they were gone. I was welcome to luxuriate in their heat and their running water and their WiFi and their multitude of television options. In exchange, I’d make sure their cat had food and water and a tolerable litter pan. I wouldn’t have to leave the house for days at a time if I didn’t want to.

I was sitting on my friend’s couch when she got the email that brought Madame into my life. I was working on my blog and my friend was doing her paying job even though it was supposed to be her day off.

What does this woman want? she asked aloud in exasperation.

The woman in question was a former co-worker. My friend said the woman only contacts her when she wants something. This time she wanted my friend to care for her dog while she was out of the country for the holidays.

My friend said her family had kept the dog once years before. She was an old dog, my friend said, and not much trouble.

I’ll be here anyway, I told my friend. If you don’t mind the dog being at your house, I can take care of her. But tell your friend I want $10 a day.

Caring for a dog meant taking it for walks, which meant I couldn’t stay in the house for days at a time. I wanted a little monetary compensation for my trouble.

My friend said the dog had no teeth and ate wet food. I definitely want $10 a day if I have to feed her wet food, I told my friend. Picking up dog feces is bad enough, but a combination of feces and wet food is a lot of grossness to deal with. Yes, if wet food was involved, I definitely wanted monetary compensation.

The dog’s person was a little desperate. No one else she asked had been able to care for the dog, so she contacted my friend. I don’t know what she would have done if I hadn’t been available. I suspect she would have paid a kennel more than $10 a day. I suspect Madame would have been miserable all alone in a tiny cage.

I said I would care for Madame.

I met her on the morning of Christmas Eve. I arrived at my friend’s house early, while she and her family were still packing and preparing for their trip. Finally, they headed off to the airport, and Madame and I were alone.

Madame was a tiny chihuahua, black, although I’d imagined her as tan and looking more like a pug. I don’t know how old she was, but her muzzle was quite grey. She had big chihuahua eyes and big chihuahua ears, and her mouth was a little twisted due to her lack of teeth. She had stick-thin legs and a large pink bow on her collar.

When it came time for our walk, I found her comically thin leash and hooked it to the metal ring on her collar. She walked well on the leash, didn’t pull, altough I’m not sure if I would have noticed if she did. Like most dogs, Madame liked to stop and sniff. Sometimes if I was ready to move on and she wasn’t, she’d plant her feet and give me an ugly look. I could have easily picked her up and whisked her away, but instead I tugged gently on the leash and talked sweetly to her until she came along.

We were almost back to my friend’s house, walking on the sidewalk, when the car stopped in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a busy street, which is probably why the driver felt it was safe to stop, but still. Most people don’t stop their cars in the middle of the street.

That’s the smallest dog I’ve ever seen! the driver called out to me.

She’s pretty small, I agreed.

The driver and the passenger, both women with grey hair, both women who looked quite a bit older than I am, were gushing over Madame’s cuteness.

Is she full grown? the driver asked me.

Oh yes, I said. She’s actually quite elderly.

There were more declarations of cuteness, and I was polite, but I was ready to move on and get back to my limited-time house life.

She’s just so small, the driver said again. And she’s full grown? The driver was having a difficult time believing Madame wasn’t a puppy.

Oh yes, I said. She’s an old lady dog!

I’ve walked cute dogs before, but none of my other charges have ever brought traffic to a halt.

Is this dog cute enough to stop traffic? I took this photo.

Mesa Pioneer Monument

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Pioneers in Mesa’s Pioneer Park

The last time I lived in Mesa, AZ, I visited the city’s Pioneer Park at 26 E Main Street. Near the southern entrance to the park is the Pioneer Monument.

In an article on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titled “Statue Honoring Arizona Pioneers Dedicated,” the history of the statue is told. In the mid-80s, sculptor Claude Pomeroy was in Pioneer Park and heard someone suggest its name be changed to Rose Garden Park. Pomeroy

decided to make sure Mesa’s residents didn’t forget their colorful pioneer heritage.

[T]he four leaders of the First Mesa Company of 1878 [are] depicted by the statue.

Charles I. Robson, George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, and the sculptor’s grandfather, Francis Martin Pomeroy, were portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a shovel, a gun, a spirit level, and a map of the townsite.

A woman and a boy, referred to in the article as well as on the plaque on display with the sculpture only as “mother and child” are behind the male settlers. I suppose this means the women and the children present during this time in Mesa’s history are not real pioneers, they’re more of an afterthought, those whose places are behind the real (male) pioneers. I supppose this means only the men and their work were important.

Did the sculptor not know of any real women and children of the time to base his work on? Perhaps he could have used his own grandmother as a pioneer model, as he used his grandfather.

Surely Pomeroy could have included female pioneers in his work if he had chosen to. The women could have been portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a butter churn perhaps, an iron, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread. Women’s work has always been important and it’s terrible that history and artists like Pomeroy have ignored that work.

I apologize to the unnamed pioneer woman pictured here for relegating her to the shadows. My arm placement was rather unfortunate in light of my desire to have the pioneer women of Mesa given their due.

Am I surprised that a piece of public art made by a artist who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and depicting people of the same religion relegate a woman and child to the back of the crowd? Am I surprised that female ancestors are not given the same respect as male ancestors? Am I surprised the ratio of men to women in the statue is 4 to 1? Am I surprised that women and their work are mostly ignored? I’m not surprised by any of those facts, but I am still disappointed.

A second plaque on display with the sculpture does a better job of being inclusive. It states,

This monument is dedicated to the founding men, women, and children of Mesa whose efforts, with others of all races, religions, and cultures, changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today.

I would like to see another artist come along and get a grant from the city to make a second momument for the park. In the new monument, women would stand tall and proud next to their husbands and sons, fathers and brothers. The new statue could be called Women Were Pioneers Too, and the women depicted could stand with a butter churn, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread, and an iron.

While I’m wishing, I’d also like to see a third piece of art, this one depicting the men and women native to the area, as well as the

others of all races, religions, and cultures, [who] changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today…

mentioned earlier. It’s time to stop honoring only the white people (usually men) who came into an area and made it their own. If we’re going to honor people, we need to be diverse and inclusive.

The Grapes of Wrath

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I grew up in the Deep South, a member of a conservative Catholic family.

My family wasn’t ultra conservative, but conservative enough. My dad let it be known he voted Republican. My mother didn’t talk much about her voting habits, but I always assumed she was voting like my dad was. My dad probably assumed the same thing. I’m sure his belief that my mother agreed with him increased family harmony.

I remember my dad talking shit on unions. He explained unions to me by saying if a company was unionized, the owner of the company couldn’t hire the people he (of course the owner of any company must be a man) wanted to hire. Let me be clear. My father never owned a company, never came close to being a member of the owning class. Why he cared about a company owner’s freedom to hire nonunion workers, I have no idea. Like so many working-class Republicans, he was living with some intense cognitive dissonance.

My dad was a hardworking white man who fed his family and paid the bills with no more than a high school diploma. It never occurred to him that other people might not be able to get by with an equal amount of hard work.

My dad backed Gerald Ford in the 1976 election, so my five-year-old self supported Ford too. My kindergarten class got to vote for president. One of the teachers took a refrigerator box and hung photos of Ford and Jimmy Carter inside. We kids went into the box one at a time and put a mark next to the photo of our candidate of choice. I made my mark for Ford, because that’s what my dad would have done. Read the rest of this entry

In Praise of a Sun Hat

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It’s difficult to find a sun hat that’s just right.

To me, the most important feature of a sun hat is a wide brim. If I’m wearing a hat for a reason other than to keep my head warm, it’s to keep the sun off my face. If I’m trying to keep the sun off my face, I want a wide brim to provide as much coverage as possible.

The second most important feature of a sun hat for me is that it’s made from natural fibers. During my search for a perfect hat, I bought on at Costco for $15. It had good coverage and it looked cute on me, but when I wore it in the beating sun of Northern New Mexico, my whole body felt overheated. I hadn’t paid attentiong to the tag which detailed the materials from which the hat had been made, but I gave it a look after feeling unexplainably much too hot for a couple of days. Yep–polyester. It was made from a polyester blend. I knew wearing clothes made from polyester (even blends!) was not for me. Polyester makes my armpits exceedingly stinky and keeps me really hot. In the winter, I can wear clothing with some polyester in it when I’m trying to stay warm (I just live with my extra stinky armpits), but in the summer? Forget about it! My Costco hat proved even polyester headgear holds in too much of my heat and makes me uncomfortable.

The third feature I want in a hat is crushability. I live a rough and tumble life, and my material possessions have to stand up to that. I need my material possession–including my sun hat–to be rugged. My hat is eventually going to be sat on or stepped on, or I’ll have to shove it into a backpack or duffle bag. My hat has to be able to bounce back from anything I put it through.

A sun hat really needs to fit the three criteria–wide brim, made from natural fibers, crushable–to mark the hat as right for me. The Costso hat had lulled me by being crushable and having a wide brim, but the synthetic fibers it was constructed from really brought me down.

Years ago, when I was in AmeriCorps and worked outside, I had a great hat to protect me from the sun. I bought it from a gardening store for $25, which was a big investment for me at the time. The money I paid was worth it for the wide sunclocking brim, the construction from natural fibers, and its ability to bounce back after being crushed. The hat held up to my use and abuse too. It was still in good shape when I left it behind during a sudden move. This hat is the one all others must measure up to.

I discovered the Costco hat wasn’t going to cut it while vending in the spring in Northern New Mexico. I had no shade and the days in the sun were hot, but I didn’t think I should feel so overheated so early in the season. When I suspected my hat was the culprit, I wanted to replace it as soon as possible.

One of the other vendors was selling sun hats. The were from Africa, the vendor told me. (As one of my textbooks in collage pointed out, Africa is a big place, but the vendor couldn’t tell me specifically in which African nation the hats had been made.) The hats were handmade, from grass. They were crushable, and they could be doused with water, then shaped. The price was $29, a little more than double what the Costco hat had cost, but I didn’t think I could make it through the summer with polyester on my head. I bought the hat woven from grass.

So far, the new hat’s held up well. I hang it next to the van’s side door for easy access, and that’s working out. Even though I think it could stand up to my butt or foot on top if it, hanging it keeps it safe and out of my way.

The hat’s a little too big for me, but I chose the one with the widest brim, which ended up being the biggest hat. If i’m wearing the hat for many hours, and I don’t want it sliding around on my head, I tie on a bandana before putting on the hat. I also make sure the chinstrap is cinched whenever I wear it so a sudden gust of wind doesn’t blow away my hat.

The hat is not only functional, it’s pretty too. The weave is nice and tight, and I like the dyed “hatband” that’s actually part of the hat.

Most importantly, the hat keeps the sun off my face and keeps my head cool. The natural fibers let my head breathe, and I don’t feel overheated when I wear it. Even for $29, it was quite a score.

I took the photo of my head and my hat. I didn’t even use a selfie stick.

 

Primitive Camping at Brantley Lake State Park

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I’d gotten a New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. It was The Man’s idea. I’d thought about getting the pass before, but The Man said this winter we could each get one and spend the season in New Mexico State Parks. He’d wrap stones with copper wire to make pendants, and I could write.

We met up at Leasburg Dam State Park after a month apart and stayed there a couple of nights. The Man thought he might be able to make some money in Carlsbad or Roswell, so we took off to that part of the state, planning to camp at Brantley Lake State Park.

Brantley Lake is between Carlsbad and Roswell, off of Highway 285. It’s closer to Carlsbad (about 12 miles) and is about 70 miles from Roswell. We’d stayed in the park’s Limestone Campground once before, when we’d been in the area the previous spring, after our visit to Carlsbad Caverns.

I remembered two important things about the park.

#1 All of the sites in Limestone Campground have electricity, so they all cost $14 per night instead of the regular $10 per night of the developed, non-electric sites covered by our camping passes. If we wanted to stay in the campground, we’d have to pay an extra $4 per night for our site.

New Mexico & Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide
#2 The park offers primitive camping. I remembered the camp host taling about the primitive camping when we’d been there in the spring, and I confirmed primitive camping with my guidebook, New Mexico and Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Don and Barbara Laine. Primitive camping only costs $8 per night and is covered by our passes.

It was dark when we pulled into Brantley Lake State Park, but we followed the signs to Rocky Bay, the primitive camping area. We parked our vans in a spot just off the road and a short walk from the lake. That’s where we settled in for the night.

In the morning, we got a better lay of the land. The primitive camping area has no designated camping spots, but

I parked that close to the water.

there were several flat areas next to the water where people had obviously camped before. During the days before and after Thanksgiving, there weren’t many primitive campers, so there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out. (We could see our nearest neighbors on both sides, but all we heard of them was the enthusiastic drumming of the people to our right. The sound was quite faint, merely background noise, which was good because the drumming went on well after dark and started again between 4:30 and 5 in the morning.)

Like most primitive camping I’ve encountered, this area had not amenities. It was a leave no trace kind of place where campers must pack out what they’ve packed in. However, the trash doesn’t have to be packed out very far. There are several dumpsters in Limestone Campground, and no one complained about us throwing several bags of trash into one. I suppose they’d rather have the trash from the primitive camping area deposited into the dumpsters rather than having it left behind to be blown into the water.

Day use area at sunset

While there are no restrooms in the primitive camping area (not even portable toilets, the camp host had said to me in the spring), we made ourselves at home in the restrooms in the day use area and the campground. Again, no one seemed to mind. The day use area was closer to where we camped, so we used the restrooms there more frequently than we used the ones in the campground.  The restrooms in the day use area seemed to be unlocked 24 hours a day and had flush toilets and sinks with running water, but no showers.

The showers are in Limestone Campground, and The Man and I utilized them twice during our stay of a little over a week. Nobody challenged our use of them. I think anyone in the park (probably even folks doing day use) could have a shower with no questions asked.

The Man says he had two great showers with plenty of hot water in the men’s shower house. Of course, having to press the button repeatedly so the water would flow was a little annoying, but that’s the way it works in New Mexico state parks. Overall, he enjoyed his shower experience.

Me? Not so much.

I like a hot shower, but the water in the stall I picked the first time was barely warm. I chose a different stall for my second shower, but the water was no warmer. I thought maybe the problem the first time was that because the shower head was so high and I’m so short, maybe the water cooled by the time it hit me. I brought a cup with me the second time, and even when I put the cup right up to the shower head, the water that filled it was barely warm.

Why did I have a cup in the shower with me? Because the shower head was mounted so high and because the water came out of it in a diffused spray, it had been impossible for me to rinse the soap from my privates during my first cleansing episode. The second time I brought a cup so I could rinse.

By the time I finished my first shower, I was literally sobbing. I was so cold, and I couldn’t rinse, and my whole life seemed like a rotten mess. I was a little more stoic the second time because I knew I wasn’t going to get a piping hot shower, and I had my cup, so I could rinse. I was in and out in a flash. Wash and rinse my hair–wash and rinse my pits–wash and rinse my privates–done!

Everything else about the primitive camping experience was fine, except for the number of flies that invaded my

The vegetation of the area

van each day. It’s nature though–there’s going to be bugs! The Man thought the area was ugly, and he said he could smell the stench of refinery and lake pollution, and I believe the word shithole was spoken. I thought the area was pretty enough, in its own way. Shade trees would have been nice, but the fall temperatures were cool enough not to desperately need shade. (I wouldn’t want to camp out there in the summer with no shade.) Also, it being New Mexico, the wind was quite strong on some days. Anyone planning to set up any sort of tent out there should weigh it down well.

I enjoyed my time in the Brantley Lake State Park primitive camping area. We had plenty of privacy and weren’t bothered by any other campers. It was cool (literally and figuratively) to park near the water, and I saw a roadrunner and a great blue heron quite close to our campsite. Also, you can’t beat a New Mexico sunset, especially over the water.

New Mexico sunset over the water

I took the photos in this post. The book cover is an Amazon link. If you click on it, I get a small advertising fee on any item you put in your cart and purchase during that shopping session.

 

 

Little Free Library (Family Practice Associates of Taos)

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Like the Little Free Libray at the Youth & Family Center and the one on the Mesa, the third Little Free Library I discovered inTaos County was a complete surprise.

I needed to use an ATM, and there was only one in Taos that partnered with my credit union. I could use that particular ATM and not pay a fee, so that’s the one I headed to. Unfortunatly, there was a problem with my withdrawal, so I had to pull into a parking space to call my credit union. While I was dialing the number, I noticed what appeared to be a Little Free Library across the way, in front of the building housing Family Practice Associates of Taos. When I finished my call, I walked over to investigate. Yep, it was a Little Free Library.

Unlike the other two Little Free Libraries I found in Taos, this one was not made from a a re-purposed newspaper vending machine. This Little Free Library was built from wood and had a door that opened and a glass window in the door. While I really appreciate the fact that the other Little Free Libraries are making use of something that was probably otherwise headed to the landfill, I also appreciate the beauty of the library near Family Practice Associates of Taos. I think the color scheme of the library is lovely, as are the two decorative birds above the door. If there were a contest going on, this library would win my vote for prettiest in Taos.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what a Little Free Library looks like. What matters is that people can get free reading material out of a Little Free Library. What matters is that a Little Free Library is a gift economy. What mattters is Little Free Libraries build communities. Of course, being pretty doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t leave any books in this Little Free Library, and I didn’t take any either. I had plenty of books to read and my van was full to bursting with all my stuff and The Man’s too. I simply took a few photos and left the Little Free Library as I found it.

I took all the photos in this post.