Tag Archives: BLM land

Free BLM Camping (Southern New Mexico Edition)

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The Man and I found ourselves in Roswell, NM. When he mentioned he’d never visited Carlsbad Caverns, I said we had to go. I’d been once before, six years ago, with my boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice. Carlsbad Caverns changed me in ways I cannot describe because I can barely understand it all myself. When I realized we were less than 100 miles from a natural wonder The Man hadn’t experienced, I insisted we go.

As soon as we decided to visit Carlsbad Caverns, I got on FreeCampsites.net (https://freecampsites.net/) to try to find us a nice, free place to spend the night.

When my ex and I visited the National Park, we spent the night before our adventure in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in the town of Carlsbad. I didn’t want to do that if we could help it. First, I haven’t met a Wal-Mart parking lot that wasn’t hot, noisy, and too bright. Why spend the night in a parking lot if we could be out in nature instead? Also, the town of Carlsbad is about 20 miles from the famous caverns, meaning we’d have to start the day with a half hour of driving if we stayed in town. Better, I thought, to drive in the evening and park for the night in a quiet, dark, natural spot.

On the Free Campsites website, I found several options for free camping on BLM land near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The place I picked doesn’t even have a name; on the website, it’s simply referred to as “Public Lands near Carlsbad Caverns.” (To read more about the camping area, go here: https://freecampsites.net/#!22041&query=sitedetails.)

I used the FreeCampsites.net free app on my Android phone to search for promising camping areas. When I decided on the spot where I wanted to camp, I clicked on the “Get Directions” link on the page with the information about the camping area. This link is near the GPS coordinates for the site. When I clicked the “Get Directions” link, it opened up Google Maps which told me how to get from my location to the road where I wanted to camp. The Man taught me it’s better to click the “Get Directions” link than to put in the GPS coordinates myself because I might make a mistake transferring all those numbers. Once Google Maps opened, we let the spokesmodel (I named her Mildred Antwerp) guide us into our spot for the night.

Without Mildred Antwerp to talk us through, it would have been a bit difficult to find the place. I would have had to keep a close eye on my odometer in order to figure out where to turn because the road onto the BLM land not only doesn’t have a street sign, it doesn’t have a name! Google Maps just calls it “Unnamed Road.” There wasn’t even a sign announcing we were on BLM land.

When directed to, we turned off US-180 W/US-62 W onto a fairly well-maintained dirt road. The road was bumpy, but I’ve certainly been on worse New Mexico roads. I didn’t feel as if the van was in any danger.

It wasn’t long before we saw a pull-off–a wide dirt area–on the left side of the road. Farther ahead, we saw other vehicles parked on the left. As indicated in the description of the camping area, we saw a fire ring in the pull-off, not BLM issue as far as I could tell, simply local stones someone had gathered and arranged in a circle. We knew we had arrived.

This pipe snaked on the right side of the road, across from the free camping area.

We didn’t want to park in the first open spot because we like privacy when we can get it, so we continued up the gently climbing road. As we went up and saw other people parked in pull-offs, I worried there might not be a place for us.

All of the camping spots were on the left side of the road. On the right side, I saw a thick, dark pipe snaking across the land. Once we stopped, I was able to read a signpost near the pipe: natural gas. The government owns the land, and somebody’s making money from the sale of the natural gas being pumped out, so I guess the least they can do is let the people camp there for free.

We found a spot, the first unoccupied one past an old pickup with a slide-in camper. The Man backed in the van next to our stone fire ring. We hadn’t brought any wood and there wasn’t any lying around to gather, so we didn’t have a fire that night. We did, however, have a nice view from the back doors.

We were quite far from our nearest neighbor, and we didn’t hear any noise other campers might have made. We were also quite far from the highway and didn’t hear any sounds of traffic. The whole time we were there, only two vehicles passed our camp. Soon after we arrived, a truck drove up the road and not too long after, drove down the road and away. In the morning, a woman who must have been camped above us drove past the van as she left. Otherwise, it was easy to imagine we were the only people in the area.

View from the back of the van

Staying on this BLM land was a true boondocking experience. There was no water, potable or otherwise. There were no toilets of either the pit, the flush, or the portable variety. There were no garbage cans or electricity. It was totally a case of bring in everything you need and take out all the waste you produce. The fire rings were the only indication people had camped there before.

Ocotillo plants and clumps of grass

I did have service for my Net 10 phone the entire time we were on the BLM land. I was even able to post a picture to Facebook and view updates from friends.

I’ve stayed in prettier free camping spots, but this place was not completely lacking beauty. We were in a sort of deserty area with clusters of grass, small cacti, and ocotillo plants growing from rocky ground.  Below us, flat land with no trees stretched as far as my eyes could see. What the area lacked in beauty, it made up for in silence and darkness.

It was also in a great location. In the morning we woke up, ate our cereal and milk, then drove about five miles to the entrance of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Spending the night on this BLM land beat staying in the Carlsbad Wal-Mart’s parking lot on every count.

The night we stayed on the BLM land, we were blessed with a red moon above us.

This campsite is located at an elevation of 3,650 feet. Its GPS coordinates are 32.204698, -104.334665.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

 

Spring in the Sonoran Desert

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Last year I spent the first couple of weeks of May in the Sonoran Desert. I don’t know if I was too late or if the previous year had been too dry, but the only flowers I saw blooming then were the ones on the saguaros. (Read about my experience with saguaros in bloom here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/04/22/saguaros-in-bloom/.) Don’t get me wrong, the saguaro blooms were beautiful, and I’m glad to have seen them, but I longed for some variety.

Saguaro in bloom

This year I hit the Sonoran Desert at just the right time to see ocotillo flowers. It seemed as if every ocotillo I saw sported a multitude of vivid red blooms. The blooms were so beautiful, especially when viewed against the bright blue desert sky. The red of the ocotillo flowers also really popped against the other muted colors of the desert.

Ocotillo bloom against sky and desert

When I visited the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in 2016, I learned the ocotillo is not a cactus. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fouquieria_splendens,

Fouquieria splendens (commonly known as ocotillo American Spanish: [okoˈtiʝo]… is not a true cactus. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although closer examination reveals that the stems are partly green. With rainfall, the plant quickly becomes lush with small (2–4 cm), ovate leaves, which may remain for weeks or even months…

The bright crimson flowers appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. Flowers are clustered indeterminately at the tips of each mature stem. Individual flowers are mildly zygomorphic and are pollinated by hummingbirds and native carpenter bees.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website (https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Ocotillo.php) says

Dense clusters of red tubular flowers grow from the end of the [ocotillo] stems from March through June.

Ocotillo prefer a habitat that is open and very rocky, and where the soil is well drained. Areas such as rocky slopes, mesas, washes and desert grasslands.

The Ocotillo is called many different names including Candlewood, Slimwood, Coachwhip, Vine Cactus, Flaming Sword and Jacob’s Staff.

Ocotillo were not the only desert plant in bloom. Several cacti also sported spring blossoms, these in a variety of colors. The Man and I went on a short hike near our camping spot on BLM land in the Sonoran Desert near Ajo and saw several cacti in bloom. Again, the brightly colored flowers really stood out against the earth tones of the desert.

Flowers of unknown Sonoran Desert plant.

 

Anyone who thinks the colors of the desert only include greens and browns should visit the Sonoran desert in April.

I took all of the photos in this post.

I don’t know the name of this cactus, but it sure does produce beatiful flowers.

 

Reconnoitering in the Desert

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Last week my friend and I walked around the desert, looking for a place to make a good camp on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. While we were walking around, I took photos of some of the things I saw.

This photo shows the old car we found in the wash. It’s very rusty.

The most unusual thing we saw was the rusted remains of an old automobile. Believe me, the car was not in a place it could have easily been driven to. In fact, it was in a place that seemed impossible to drive to. It was high up in a wash, in a place I think no motorized vehicle could go.

How do you think that car got here? I asked my friend.

I dunno, he drawled.

I think it was washed here in a flood! I said. How else could it have gotten here?

The car seemed old, not just because it was rusty. The design of the car seemed old. I think the car had been sitting there for years, decades even. I don’t think anyone is going to drag the car out of the wash. I think the car is going to sit there until it becomes one with the earth.

This is the front of the car we found in the wash. It looks really old to me.

Wow! Look at that bug! I said when I saw a beetle sunning itself on a small rock. I like to see creatures hanging out in nature.

We poked at the beetle a little, just to see it move, then we felt bad about disturbing it. It tried to hide in the shadow of the surrounding rocks. I tried to move it back to the sun where I’d first found it.

Later, I almost stepped on it as I skidded down from a higher level where I’d climbed.

Watch out for our little friend, my friend said to me, but I thought he was talking about the dog. Luckily, I didn’t step on the beetle, although I was pretty out of control at the moment, waving my arms and trying to get down the steep, rocky incline without falling.

Here’s the rock formation I’d climbed up to look at more closely:

I stood at the base of it and looked at the openings in the rock. I think it was full of packrat nests. I saw what I thought was feces, and got away from it fast. I don’t need any New Mexico plague, thank you very much.

I think the formation was made of sandstone. It felt gritty to the touch, and seemed as if it could easily disintegrate or wash away. Although at first I thought camping up against it might make for a good campsite, we ended up deciding it was too unstable to trust with our lives.

After a couple of hours of walking around, we found a spot my friend liked. It was mostly flat and mostly secluded. He set up his tent and hauled his things over while I reorganized the van.

As I left in the late afternoon, I saw the sunset in my sideview mirror.

It was a lovely end to a lovely day in the desert.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Gunsight Wash

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During my first trip the area around Ajo and Why, AZ, I did not camp on the Gunsight Wash BLM land. I was enamored with the free camping on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop and didn’t have much motivation to move my butt anywhere else. But since I like to see new places (and write about them!), during my second visit to the area, I decided to spend a night at Gunsight Wash.

During my first visit, the Divine Miss M and I had pulled into the camping area on our way to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and had a quick look around. Although the area has no amenities (no running water, no trash cans, no toilets–pit or otherwise, no showers, no picnic tables, and no shade covers), it does have several desirable features.

First, if one wants to visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, this camp area is in a great location only twenty miles from the Monument’s Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Gunsight Wash would be a great free area to leave a travel trailer or 5th Wheel while visiting the Monument.

Second, the main road was in good condition when I visited (April 2016). There are many spots accessible to vehicles with low clearance. While friends in a minivan and a Prius had trouble finding sites for their vehicles on the Ajo Scenic loop, I think most anyone could find a workable spot in Gunsight Wash.

Third, there is a lot of room in Gunsight Wash. Unless this place gets super crowded in mid-winter, there should be no reason for people to camp on top of one another here.

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I was facing south when I took this photo. The roadside table is on the east side of the road. The camping area is on the west side of the road.

Four, it’s really easy to find. The Gunsight Wash camping area is on Highway 85, just south of milepost 55. Right before the camping area is a sign for a roadside table. (The sign also shows accessibility for folks with disabilities.) The roadside table is on the east side of the road.  The entrance to the camping area is on the west side, directly across from the entrance to the roadside table area.

After making the turn into the camping area, look for a couple of tall saguaros and a small sign that says “RVs”. Follow the sign’s arrow to the right.

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Drive a very short ways and look for the cattle guard on the left. Cross the cattle guard. You are now in the camping IMG_5663area!

To the left of the cattle guard is one of those signs warning about smuggling and illegal immigration. During my day and night at Gunsight Wash, I saw no one who seemed to be smuggling or immigrating illegally.

IMG_5664From reviews I read of this camping area, I expected to see a camp host. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was a camp host there in January (2016) when Miss M and I popped in for a quick look-around. On that day there was a rig parked not far over the cattle guard and to the right. Also on that day, there was a sign-in sheet on the sign board. In April, there was no camp host and no sign-in sheet. There were, however, signs saying there is a 14 day limit on camping in the area.

IMG_5662While Gunsight Wash is by no means an ugly area, I don’t think it is a pretty as the BLM free camping areas adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop. (That my be why one place has “scenic” in its name and the other doesn’t.) While Gunsight Wash does include a few saguaros (some very large, which means very old), I saw no organ pipe cacti or any type of cholla out there. Gunshight Wash has a lot of creosote bushes and even some trees, which is nice in the desert. If one went far back and to the right on the main road (which is actually little more than a wide dirt trail), one would find a large tree offering some shade. I think it would be nice to camp with the tree.

IMG_5706Throughout the day I spent in the area, I saw critters moving. There were so many quail, I felt as if I were at a Partridge Family reunion. Sometimes little rodents dashed out into the open as they moved from one hole in the ground to another.

The most exciting animal I saw all day was a coyote. I must have noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, I saw a full-grown coyote standing next to a bush. I looked at it and it looked at me, then it moved on.

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The cow in the trees.

When I read the information at the sign board, I noticed a note written by the camp host. It said campers should be nice to the cows in the campground because they are “paying customers.” Apparently one or more ranchers lease the land for grazing. I definitely saw fresh signs of bovine presence. While taking an early evening walk, something up ahead moved in the trees. I thought maybe it was another coyote, but it was a cow (or maybe a steer).

I only saw one other rig (a big 5th wheel) parked in the area. After dark, I could hear the generator humming over there, but I was far enough away that it was a quiet hum. I could hear vehicles passing on Highway 85, but the road wasn’t very busy, and I wasn’t disturbed. I think by camping farther back, one could eliminate some of the noise I encountered.

I think this is a fine camping spot. However, since I don’t need to be close to the National Monument and my vehicle has decently high clearance, if I were in this area, I would probably choose to camp on the BLM land right outside of Ajo.

The Free Campsite website (https://freecampsites.net/#!4448&query=sitedetails) gives 32.238056, -112.751396 as the GPS coordinates for this camping area.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Abandoned Mine

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Before I got to Quartzsite for the Rubber Tramps Rendezvous (RTR), my new friend Iggy told me about the hikes he’d taken the year before near the site of the RTR and the abandoned (and not so abandoned) mines he’d discovered out on that BLM land. It sounded cool and interesting, and I said I wanted to see an abandoned mine too. Iggy and I went on a hike the day after we both arrived, but we had to turn around to beat the sunset before we ever got to a mine. After that, I was always too tired or too busy to go hiking with Iggy, and then the RTR ended and we went our separate ways.

I went to Ajo, AZ next and spent a few days boondocking on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop. One morning, as I was driving down the loop, headed into town, I saw a sign that said Abandoned Mine. What? I thought about Iggy of course, so that afternoon after parking the van in my spot, I walked down the road to see the mine. I didn’t have to hike or climb or avoid cacti to get to the mine. It was right next to the road. I took a couple of photos, and that was that.

The most interesting thing I learned was that Arizona has a state mine inspector. Who knew?

Before I wrote this post, I decided to do a quick Google search on abandoned mines on BLM land. I learned a few things on a couple of BLM webpages too.

According to a Bureau of Land Management webpage (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/Abandoned_Mine_Lands.html),

BLM maintains an inventory of known abandoned mine lands on public lands. Most of the sites are abandoned hardrock mines. As of April 18, 2014, the inventory contained nearly 46,000 sites and 85,000 features. Approximately 23% of the sites have either been remediated, have reclamation actions planned or underway, or do not require further action.  The remaining 80% require further investigation and/or remediation. [Emphasis theirs]

Here are some pertinent questions and answers from http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/Abandoned_Mine_Lands/frequently_asked_questions.html:

What is an abandoned mine?

The AML [Abandoned Mine Lands] program addresses hardrock mines on or affecting public lands administered by BLM, at which exploration, development, mining, reclamation, maintenance, and inspection of facilities and equipment, and other operations ceased as of January 1, 1981…with no intention of resuming active operation.

For many abandoned mines, no current claimant of record or viable potentially responsible party exists.

What are examples of AML hazards?

  • Physical hazards: Unsecured AML sites pose a risk of death or serious injury by falling down open mine shafts.
  • Human health hazards: Exposure to toxic gases and chemicals, cave-ins, explosives, and water hazards endanger human health.
  • Environmental hazards: Water contaminated by mine tailings threatens nearby communities and destroys habitats.

Which types of sites become cleanup priorities?
The decision is made on a site-by-site basis, but typically the following factors are taken into consideration when determining priorities.

For physical safety sites:

  • Safety: Death or injury has occurred;
  • Public use: Have high public visitation;
  • Accessibility: Are easily accessible;
  • Population: Are located nearby populated areas;
  • Cost: Have cost-effective partnerships available.

What are some of the ways BLM addresses hazards at abandoned mine sites?
BLM addresses physical safety hazards associated with abandoned mine sites by:

  • Posting warning signs and fencing off access to dangerous areas;
  • Closing horizontal opening (adits) to keep people out. Where bats are present, BLM uses bat gates that allow them to use the adit for habitat;
  • Closing vertical openings (shafts) either by filling them, or by covering them with little roofs (cupolas); and/or
  • Removing and properly disposing hazards such as mining and milling equipment, oil and chemical drums, and other debris.

This aforementioned webpage also says that as of January 2, 2015, the number of known abandoned mine sites in Arizona was 6,229.

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I took this photo from outside the flimsy material fencing off the mine. (You can see said flimsy material on the far side of the hole.)

Homestead

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Along the Ajo Scenic Loop, I saw what appeared to be an old homestead.

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I interpreted this sign to mean, you can be in here, but don’t touch, damage, or destroy anything.

Going west on Darby Well Road, almost to Scenic Loop Road, there was a fenced off area on the right. Although there was a fence, there weren’t any “No Trespassing” signs, and there was an opening in the fence (more like a purposefully made entrance than like a place where fencing had fallen or been pulled down) where an adult could easily walk through. Near the entrance opening, there was a sign. I interpreted this sign to mean, you can be in here, but don’t touch, damage, or destroy anything. Ok. I knew I could handle that.

A brochure about the Ajo Scenic Loop I got from the Ajo Historical Society Museum says,

Junction of Darby Well Road & Scenic Loop Road. This intersection is unmarked but it is obvious. Parts of deserted buildings are on the right–this is Darby Well.

I walked around and didn’t see any signs naming this place or any evidence of a well. What I did see was a lot of rusty metal and a lot of broken glass, much of it green. IMG_4608

IMG_4609This site looked more like a dump than a homestead. There wasn’t a trash pile, no single area where broken glass and rusty metal was heaped. Broken and rusty things were spread out all over the place.

In New Mexico, people love to make “art” from rusty metal. I call this “tetanus art.” This place would have been a jackpot for a “tetanus art” artist, if all of this rusty metal had been up for grabs.

It was a bit hard for me to imagine any of this junk being “fragile or irreplaceable.” I suspect I felt this way because this trash was relatively modern. I know trash can tell archaeologists a lot about a society, but because this trash didn’t look terribly old, it was easy to think there was nothing going on here more than this was a place where people who didn’t pick up after themselves lived.

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The remains of an old car (truck?) sat on the property. I thought this old automobile body was interesting. We can see from the dashboard that this vehicle was made by Chevrolet. IMG_4624Anyone have any ideas about the model or the year?

As I do whenever I walk through abandoned places where people once lived, I wondered about the people who had lived here. Who were they? Why did they leave? Where did they go? Are they dead now? Where are their descendants? Do those descendants ever come here and look at the trash of their ancestors and think, My grandfather may have drunk from that bottle of Sprite. Did my grandmother wear that shoe? 

Whose grandmother wore this shoe?

It was easy to forget–when I didn’t see or hear another human being–that this had once been a place where people lived and worked and laughed and cried and sang and cooked and loved and hated.

Someone built the house that was now only a wall, probably several someones, probably without power tools or other fancy equipment. What was left of the house held the sweat and probably the blood and the tears too of the people who built it and the people who lived there.

Who slept on these mattress springs? Who ate the food out of these can? Who cooked on that stove? Who lived in that house?

Who slept on these mattress springs? Who ate the food out of these can? Who cooked on that stove? Who lived in that house?

Who’d lived in that house? Had people made love there, birthed babies there, died there? Who’d cooked dinner on the stove now sitting in the sand, slept in a bed whose springs were now abandoned and rusty, awoken in this place each morning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4619How much longer will the house stand before nature reclaims the land?

Nature wants to reclaim the land.

Nature wants to reclaim the land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: Week 1

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Rubber Tramp
A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.

(from Urban Dictionary, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Rubber+Tramp)

Rendezvous
a place appointed for assembling or meeting

(from Merriam-Webster,  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rendezvous)

The 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) was held at Scaddan Wash, a short-term camping area about five miles north of Quartzsite, Arizona  on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in the Sonoran Desert. It’s free to camp there. There are no campsites, so folks can camp wherever they like. There are also no amenities in Scaddan Wash. There are no toilets (pit, flush, or otherwise), no showers, no drinking water, no running water of any kind, no trash cans, and no trash pick up. In Scaddan Wash, it’s just wide open sky, rocky ground, scrubby plants, and a scattering of tall cacti.

 Although there were no features of civilization in the camping area, there were reminders that we were not so far from civilization after all. At night, in the distance, we could see the lights of Quarzsite twinkling. (The year-round population of Quartzsite is 3,600, but that number swells between January and March as snowbirds-and vendors trying to make a buck off the snowbirds-move in.) We could also hear the traffic on I-10, which was only about a mile and a half away. At first the motor noise was annoying, but after I told myself it sounded like the ocean, it wasn’t so bad.

While there’s no charge to camp at Scaddan Wash, campers do have to get a permit from the camp host. The length of stay is limited to 14 days in a 28 day period. (You can find everything you want to know about camping at Scaddan Wash here: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/dev_camps/scaddan.html)

I pulled into the RTR camping area in the late afternoon. I didn’t know anyone there, and I didn’t know where anything was. Where should I park? I had no idea.

I saw a spot with room for my van with shade provided by a palo verde tree. Shade is a hot (or should I say cool?) commodity in the desert, so I figured it was a good spot to choose.

I made sure I left plenty of space between me and the camp next to mine. As I parked, the woman in the next camp waved, so after turning off the van, I strode over to say hello. That’s how I met the Divine Miss M. Well, no it wasn’t Bette Midler, but a woman just as cool and funny. (I never did find out if she could sing.) Miss M and I hit it off immediately. She was friendly and welcoming and no-nonsense and interesting. It was her first RTR too, and we quickly became buddies.

The next day, the Welcome Seminar was at 10am. The highlight was finally meeting Mr. B, author and webmaster, the driving force behind the RTR. Mr. B talked about the upcoming schedule, permits, and campfires, as well as things we might want to know about goods and services available in Quartzsite. Others chimed in with tales of free pancakes and free showers, as well as scratch and dent grocery outlets.

During the welcome seminar, Mr. B announced that women’s meetings would be held both Sundays of the gathering. He said the meetings needed a facilitator and asked for a volunteer. No one offered to do it. I knew I had the skills to facilitate the women’s meeting, so later in the day, I approached Mr. B and said I would do it. He seemed pleased to have one less thing to worry about.

After the seminar, we were free for the day. That was the end of the structured activities.

Later that night, there was a community campfire. With the idea of being social, I hauled my chair over to the campfire and sat down. No one said hello or asked my name. I didn’t ask their names either. I couldn’t even see people’s faces. Turns out, campfires are not actually great places to meet people. There was a whole lot of dude going on at this one too. Although there were women enjoying the fire, all the talking was being done by guys. The entire time I sat there, I wondered how soon I could leave without looking totally awkward. Finally, I was able to escape. Although there were community campfires every night, I did not return.

The next day’s seminar was about going to Algodones, Mexico for dental work, prescriptions, and eye glasses. I wasn’t planning on doing any of those things, but thought it couldn’t hurt to sit through the presentations. It doesn’t seem very difficult for American to get their needs met in Algodones. There’s a casino on the U.S. side of the border where people park so they can simply walk into Mexico. The pharmacies and dental and optical offices in Algodones catering to Americans are in one small district right over the border. It is easy to find English speakers there. If I had a passport, I would have seriously considered going to Algodones for my recent dental work.

The other big event of the day was that a woman was cutting hair for donations. I really needed a haircut and had been planning to get one before the Rendezvous, but ran out of time. I walked over to her camp to find that several people were already waiting. I put my name on the list, then sat on the rocks reading my book. While sitting there, N. struck up a conversation with me, leading to a nice friendship.

The haircut turned out great. However, no matter what I do, I can’t get my hair to curl. I wonder if the desert has simply sucked all of the curl out of me, or if I’ve had some hormonal change that’s done away with my curl. I guess I won’t know if I don’t ever leave the desert.

On Friday, the morning seminar was about gadgets, but I skipped it to go into town.

On Saturday morning, the seminar was about solar power. I attended it, although I had (and have) no plans to hook up solar power in my van. I need four new tires before I can even think about spending money on solar power. A lot of the information presented was over my head, but the seeds of solar power knowledge have been planted.

That afternoon was the first of three group meals, a chili dinner. Here’s what the Cheap RV Living website said about the chili dinner:

The chili…dinner [is] a group effort. Everybody needs to bring a can of chili… to contribute to the pot before noon… That doesn’t sound good, but it always turns out great! We also welcome fresh, diced vegetables and cooked (or canned) meat. Cans of tomato products also work well. If you bring a vegetable, it needs to be cleaned and diced, or meat (like hamburger) it need [sic] to be cooked and ready to [sic] into the pot. We won’t have time to dice or cook those when we make the chili or soup.

There was a Cook among us, and he took responsibility for the chile dinner. I did not participate in the cooking, but I did participate in the eating. The cooks (under the supervision of The Cook) made a vegetarian chili, a turkey chili, a hot, and a medium beef chili. I had the vegetarian chili and it was delicious! Other folks brought corn bread, which made the whole meal even better.

The group meal was a really good place to socialize. It was easy to strike up a conversation about the food. I enjoyed getting to know people while eating together.

The morning seminar for the next day was described on the schedule as “Tin Can Seminar (Questions and Answers.)” Mr. B described it as an opportunity to ask questions about anything and everything. It was moderated by a (male) poet who seemed very pleased with himself. I had asked a question about how to make sure my battery didn’t die if I were parked in a remote location for several days, and he skipped right over it! I saw him. I recognized the paper my question was written on, and I saw him read the question and discard the paper. Instead, he read aloud questions such as “Do women like men with long hair?” and “Can people tell what kind of sexual activity is happening inside by the way a van is moving?” Mr. B had told us that the answers would represent “community wisdom,” but folks just sort of shouted out whatever they wanted to say in response to each question. This seminar was a complete waste of my time, and if I attend the RTR again, I will NOT sit through such malarkey.

On Sunday afternoon, we had the women’s meeting. (Read about the first women’s meeting here: https://throwingstoriesintotheether.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/the-first-womens-meeting-at-the-2015-rtr/.)

The Monday morning seminar was on cooking methods for rubber tramps, but I skipped it and went to town that day.

Most of the seminars I was really interested in happened at the end of the second week of the RTR, so I spent the first week hanging out, meeting people, writing postcards to friends, and making hats from yarn. I tried to take a walk every evening as the sun was setting.

On the first evening that I took a walk, I strolled all the way to the end of the line of rigs. There before me was a really cool old motor home. The folks who own it are pretty cool too. After a few minutes of chatting, Ms. Dee asked me if I wanted to see the inside of her home. I really did, but would have never said so if she hadn’t offered. “I thought you’d never ask!” I squealed.

It was awesome to be around people who were so open, who wanted to share their knowledge and let me take a peek into their lives.

The sun was usually down by the time I finished my walks. It was dark out there by 6:30 or so, and I was ready to go to bed by 8pm. I’d try to stay awake reading or making hats until at least 9pm, but some nights I was asleep at eight o’clock. Early to bed often does mean early to rise, even if it was still nighttime dark outside. I sometimes was wide awake by 5:30am, although the sun didn’t make it over the mountain until after seven o’clock.

I think it was the first week we got some on and off drizzle. Once the drizzle moved through, the weather was simply lovely, sunny, but not too hot. Days warmed up nicely and nights were chilly, but I was never cold when I was trying to sleep. It seemed like I was in a constant state of adding or subtracting a layer during the days.

At the end of the first week, I was really glad to be rendezvousing with the other rubber tramps.