Tag Archives: Bob Wells

Memories of the RTR 2020 (Guest Post)

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As I said in last week’s report on the RTR, I attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in 2015201620172018, and (very briefly) in 2019. Every year I was there, I met new people and leaned new things and was glad to have gone. Every year I posted a report of my experiences at the gathering. Unfortunately, in 2020 health and financial concerns kept me from attending the RTR.

I wanted my readers to know what had happened at this year’s RTR so I asked in a few van groups I’m in on Facebook if anyone would like to write a report about their experiences at the 2020 RTR. This is the second of two reports submitted.

Today’s report is by Heinrich Keifer. I’m very grateful for his willingness to share the following perspective on this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

In 2018, on a visit to Quartzsite, AZ I first heard a whisper about the RTR. I thought what is that? I asked a fellow in town, what was that and where it was located, he said way back in the desert up a long dirt road. I had visions of a strange group of folks who assembled annually to tell long tales of adventures of life in the wild. That year, I did not make the effort to find my way to attend. Maybe, inside I had a fear of this new group of desert people.

In 2019, I came upon a youtube video about the upcoming RTR. I became fascinated with the thought of camping out in Quartzsite and attending this event to share and learn about life in the wild and off the grid. I knew that I had to share in the event and made plans to attend my first RTR.

I arrived as early as possible on the first day that group camping would be allowed on the new land designated by the BLM for this purpose. The planners had announced efforts to have more restrooms and even a dumpster to aid in the camping for all to enjoy. Bob Wells said that he would be underwriting the cost associated with these amenities, but still wished to keep the RTR free for all to enjoy. I found a great camping spot for my trailer and as it turned out I was right next to the Art Camp. I met several very interesting folks in the Art Camp and enjoyed the camp’s morning fire on several occasions. I was also able to lend a hand with a new solar panel kit build for one of the Art Camp folks.

On a walk I met a fellow who was deep into solar technology and he spoke of various solar related issues that helped me understand more fully how to get the most benefit from my 100-watt roof mounted system. Presented, at the main stage, were many fine topics on camping off the grid, everything from safety, minimalism, border parks and safety along the border, solar cooking, battery management, stealth camping and more. I enjoyed the exhibit area which featured mostly car conversions. Also, a big hit for me was the evening talent show. I just missed the closing ceremonial van burning, but I did get to sign the van in the days before the closing. I managed also to volunteer to help folks get in and out of the RTR grounds via narrow dirt roads and do some clean up and break down of equipment. My experience convinced me that the 2020 RTR would be a must-attend event.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 RTR I searched the area around the La Paz County Fairgrounds for dispersed camping. I saw Facebook posts on available State Trust land and thought that there must be space somewhere closer than the 19 miles to Plomosa Road BLM camping. Many folks had the same idea to find a closer place to camp. After much discussion, some for and some against closer camping, I took a trip to the area and drove off road to get a better picture of what could be used and where it was. I made calls to the Parker Police and the La Paz County Sheriff, but no one could say for sure if the land would accommodate camping. I returned home to Los Angeles and continued to suggest to anyone who would listen that I thought there was camping, but it required 4-wheel access only, maybe some could make it in in a 2-wheel vehicle. Time passed and the discussion continued in Facebook and Rvillage.

Finally the event came, I spent the first night in Scaddan Wash, then off to the Fairgrounds to drop off my wife, Peggy, at the Women’s RTR (WRTR). I proceeded up Hillside Road to the end, and as I reached the dirt road I switched on 4-wheel drive to enter the semi-wash road. I traveled over some mild mounds, through a rather sandy wash bottom, and up to a slight plateau. I was set for the week, I thought. The night was quiet and the next day we rose to have coffee and breakfast, then it was off to the WRTR for Peggy. I remained at camp in and around the 5th wheel trailer and relaxed.

All was going as planned until a white pick-up crossed the nearby desert and then stopped about 200 feet from my rig. I had a bad feeling and when I saw two law enforcement officers exit the pick-up truck, I knew to expect a visit. I exited my rig and walked slowly toward them carefully keeping my hands where they could be seen; after all, I am from Los Angeles. I was welcomed and asked if I knew that I was within the Parker city limits and that there was no-camping with the city limits? I told them that I spoke with the Parker Police, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department, and State Land Trust office in Phoenix and all agreed that this area should be fine to camp in. I also pulled out my Stage Trust permit along with a map showing the assumed boundaries of the Trust Land. Well, I was told that the city ordinance would overrule the State Trust permit and that I needed to comply. I told them that I was happy to comply and did not want to create any trouble for the event or the city.

I was the only person to attempt to camp in that area; however I understand that another camper made a camp along another road and was also asked to leave. The RTR did announce that someone had been cited for camping, in a “no-camping area”, but did not say who. I did settle in for 6 days at another BLM area along Parker Dam Road which worked out well and had good access to shopping, Blue Water Casino, and several restaurants.

My attendance at the RTR proved to be satisfying and worthwhile. Peggy enjoyed her two-day participation in the WRTR. I managed to do some volunteer work which was fun, and I met many different RVers and van dwellers who had interesting stories and visions for their future, as perhaps full time RVers.

Since I was a volunteer who agreed to provide over 16 or 20 hours of service, I was entitled to free dry camping at the venue, which I though could be expanded next year. By lowering the required number of hours, there could be more campers on-site and this would help to increase attendees to the workshops.

I also suggested that a shuttle transportation be planned for next year. I was told that the organizing of a bus would constitute a violation of the BLM rules, but that I could work on it on my own. I agreed that I would see what could be done outside of the official RTR management circle.

I know that I benefited from my attendance and would encourage others to think about attending in the future. Hope to see you down the road, and at the next RTR.

In 2014 Heinrich Keifer decided to restore an old 1980s 5th wheel trailer; after a few weekend trips he attended a national Good Sam rally. After years of boating and boat camping he started to get a good feeling about RV living. In late 2015 he picked up a new Jayco 5th wheel and has been increasing his RV education at numerous RV events, through magazines, and from YouTube and Facebook posts. Recently he attended his second RTR and was involved in posting tips to help locate camping.   

Photos provided by Blaize Sun.

Is The RTR Dead? (Guest Post)

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I attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and (very briefly) in 2019. Every year I was there, I met new people and leaned new things and was glad to have gone. Every year I posted a report of my experiences at the gathering. Unfortunately, in 2020 health and financial concerns kept me from attending the RTR.

I wanted my readers to know what had happened at this year’s RTR so I asked in a few van groups I’m in on Facebook if anyone would like to write a report about their experiences at the 2020 RTR. I got a couple of volunteers, and I’ll be sharing their guest posts in the upcoming weeks.

Today’s report is by Mary Ellen Telesha. I’m very grateful for her willingness to share the following perspective on this year’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

Is the RTR dead?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this come up on social media before, during, and after this remarkable nomadic event.

I’m here to reassure you, it’s not.

What is the RTR you ask? 

Click here, for detailed information, but here’s the short version–RTR stands for Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual 10 day gathering of nomads out in the Arizona desert, founded by Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living.

The RTR, preceded by the Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (WRTR), just wrapped up its 10th annual gathering in January 2020 under balmy and beautiful Arizona skies.

In previous years the RTR/WRTRs were held out in the vast Sonoran desert, where we gathered to create an enormous temporary community. The estimate of attendees for 2019 was upwards of 10,000 participants, with free onsite camping spreading out for miles around the central presentation area. This huge number speaks to the growing phenomenon of nomadic living, and the success of the community Bob Wells has worked so hard to create.

Unfortunately, this year’s RTR was a drastic deviation from the RTRs of the past. The Bureau of Land Management, the governmental agency that manages public land out West, refused to allow another massive RTR event without a significant monetary commitment, no doubt following the precedent of Burning Man, an enormous gathering in the Nevada Desert (not related to the RTR).

In his wrap-up video of the 2020 RTR, Bob shared with his viewers that the BLM was asking anywhere from $100,000 to $600,000 to hold the event on public land this year. As he is devoted to keeping the event free, Bob was forced to come up with an alternative plan.

So, the RTR was moved to the La Paz County Fairgrounds just outside of Parker Arizona, where all of the seminars took place. As there was no camping allowed on the Fairgrounds, (except for staff and  full-time volunteers), the droves of nomads pouring into the area for the RTR spread out to camp in the surrounding Quartzsite, Parker, and California BLM areas. 

Of course, this change became a perfect opportunity for the usual naysayers to announce that the RTR is dead.

Now, I’m not a nomad newbie.

This year was my 3rd WRTR, and my second RTR.

I’ll be on the road full-time for 3 years this spring, and I’ve pretty much got my routine down.That’s not to say I’m done learning, but I don’t attend the RTR just for the education.

The nomadic lifestyle is intriguing, attracting a unique variety of humans from all walks of life. We come in cars, tents, vans, trucks, and RVs. We nomads are as varied as our rigs, yet when we get together we’re bound by the common experience of life on the road, and the stories that got us there.

I’m especially inspired every year by women who face their fears, throw their belongings into a vehicle, and drive thousands of miles for the first time, often solo, to learn and meet their fellow nomads.

Every interaction at the WRTR and RTR either inspired or educated me in some way, like the woman giving out little emergency whistles to everyone who crossed her path. What a perfect way to start conversations about safety and awareness on the road!

I was a volunteer this year, working behind the scenes as an assistant to the scheduling committee, and I’ll tell you what, the way the WRTR/RTR event came together out of hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and formidable chaos, was nothing short of amazing. 

I was also a volunteer at the “Information and Sticker Booth” on the first day of the WRTR. The energy was high, with old-timers and newbies alike thrilled to have finally made it!

Even with the added driving this year to get to the seminars at the Fairgrounds, I made it to quite a few presentations. 

One of my favorites was Mary Shafer’s severe weather presentation, (find her at WildHeartWanders.com). She taught us how to predict where a tornado is headed (hint: if it looks like it’s not moving but just getting bigger it’s headed right for you) and how to identify specific cloud formations that might impact travel. She also taught a jam-packed hour on weather apps for your phone.

I experienced Gong meditation for my third year with Harmonic Immersion – A Meditation and Sound Experience, by Gong Gypsy Michelle Angel of the Gong Temple.

One of the most moving presentations on the main stage was a discussion of depression and anxiety on the road, with a very personal sharing by Bob Wells and Joanne Shortell of the NomadChapter.org.

There was a panel discussion “Allies For Safety,” which covered the importance of nomads having each other’s backs, specifically addressing how men can be allies for women in the nomadic lifestyle.

I totally enjoyed the seminar “One Pot Cooking, No Junk” by Dr. Dorothy Adamiak ND and her husband Andy, and I’ll be buying their cookbook, 69 Pleasures, for healthy and easy-to-cook meals on the road. Healthy Ricotta cheese sauce? Oh yes!

There was even a talent show!

Although there are too many too list here, there were hundreds of free seminars, including solar experts, budgeting, making money on the road, internet service, workcamping, stealth camping, vehicle maintenance, pets on the road, and even aura reading. The seminars on the main stage were recorded, and will eventually be shared with the public on Bob Well’s Youtube channel 

So when the naysayers start throwing the BS, which they always do, I know they just don’t get it. Before the gates to the Fairgrounds were even closed I saw complaints on Youtube and other social medial outlets — about incompetent, bossy volunteers; that the RTR was dead; and all the usual BS about Bob Wells ripping us off. How anyone can believe that is beyond me. This is the first year he and his co-founder Suanne Carlson haven’t had to take money out of their own pockets to cover costs.

It’s been said that it’s easier to criticize than to organize.

Amen to that.

Mary Ellen Telesha is a nomad and author, currently traveling around the U.S. in a simply converted Chevy Uplander mini-van. She’s also a Martha Beck Life Coach, and a Reiki Master who has written two books, Wild Women On The Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age, and the second with a more humorous take, Top Ten Lists For Nomads: The (Mostly) Lighter Side Of Nomadic Life. For more of her journey, find her at Cosmic Gypsy Nomad Life on Facebook and Instagram. 

Photos were provided by the author.


Thoughts on the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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Black letters on yellow sign read "Rubber Tramp Rendezvous"

I actually didn’t spend much time at the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

I’d planned to volunteer at the RTArt Camp and stay in that area with The Man in his minivan, but there was a misunderstanding with the main Art Camp organizer, and she didn’t save a spot for us. She tried to squeeze us in next to the portable toilets, but neither The Man nor I wanted to sleep and cook next to the shitters. Besides, we would have been camped practically within arm’s reach of our neighbors, and even if the humans had been ok with that, every little movement from either side would have probably set Jerico the dog to barking.

White banner reads "R T Art Camp" in multicolored letters.
This is the 2018 RTArt Camp banner that Coyote Sue and I painted.

The RTArt Camp was in a much better location than in 2018. It was adjacent to the road into (and out of) the RTR and very close to the main stage. I was glad it was easier to find and get to, but having the camp roped off limited the number of people who could park their rigs within the designate Art Camp area. The Art Camp organizer told me only Art Camp volunteers were allowed to stay within the camp. I wondered if this arrangement made the camp feel exclusive to people. In 2018, I had been glad that anyone who wanted to could camp near the art community; I know at least one woman camped near us because it felt like a safe space to her.

The Man and I (along with Jerico the dog) arrived at the RTR on the afternoon of January 10. We found our friend Gee staffing the check-in station, and she gave us hugs and wrote down the mini van’s license plate number. We drove to the Art Camp and parked there while trying to decide if we were going to make our camp by the shitters. We walked around the RTR a bit while trying to make our decision. We went to the main seminar area where between 300 and 500 people (I’m terrible at estimating attendance, by the way) were listening to the afternoon speaker.

We walked over to the free pile which was being curated by a fellow who could have used some customer service training. I found several cans of tuna; a couple of fresh oranges; and a nice, big zipper pouch, but I suspect all the really great scores were snatched up quick with so many people milling about.

One change with the free pile in 2019 was that is was only “open” during certain hours each day. In the past, folks could peruse the free pile any time of the day or night. The always-available nature of the free pile meant that if it rained during the night, all of the offerings got wet unless some good Samaritan ran out of their rig and threw a tarp over everything. I suspect at closing time, the free pile volunteer covered everything with a tarp to protect the goodies from the elements.

The volunteer on duty also helped keep dogs off the free pile offerings, which probably helped cut down on the amount of dog piss on the items. Covering the free pile for the night surely also kept wayward dogs from spoiling the items.

The volunteer on duty received any donations and rejected anything deemed unworthy. On the one hand, I understand not wanting to clutter the free pile with trash, but of course, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. What if something the volunteer rejected was just the thing someone needed? The guy who needed customer service training met donations with suspicion, as if he believed most people were trying to encumber him with junk.

Another change at the RTR was having a camping area set aside for event volunteers. The main entrance to this area was staffed by a volunteer acting as a bouncer of sorts. I didn’t try to get into that area alone, so I don’t know what sort of challenge was issued if someone without the proper credentials tried to get in. Having an exclusive area for volunteers seemed a little strange to me, but I’m not really sure why things were set up that way, other than hearing a volunteer say, We feel really protective of Bob. That would be Bob Wells she was talking about. If you don’t already know, he’s the host of the RTR and the force behind the Cheap RV Living website and YouTube channel. I suppose he probably does have a large enough fan base to cause worry that people might be standing outside his van day and night, clamoring to meet him.

As has been reported in numerous other places, the 2019 RTR was HUGE! It was so big, when The Man and I stood at the Love’s truck stop on the west side of Quartzsite, we could look to the east and see the many, many rigs all the way across town at the RTR. It was amazing. It was also overwhelming to imagine living among so many people, so we decided to make our camp in the less dusty, less populated BLM area near Dome Rock.

This is the view from our camp in the Dome Rock BLM camping area on the morning of January 14, 2019

From what Gee told me on the first Sunday of the gathering, everything had been running smoothly. Aside from a few rude people who stopped at the vehicle check-in station, folks had been polite to each other and the volunteers, and everyone seemed to be getting along. I was glad to know most folks had been behaving appropriately.

With such a large group camping in a wide area, having the “streets” named and signed seemed to be helpful. I’m sure people were able to meet up more easily when they could at least tell each other with some accuracy what street they were camped on.

Another way for people to find each other was by posting announcements on one of the bulletin boards near the main stage. It must have been helpful to be able to leave a note asking to meet up with like-minded people. After all, one of the reasons Bob started the RTR was to give nomads the opportunity to meet each other and make friends.

I went to the RTR primarily to help out at the Art Camp and to conduct some interviews for the blog. I spent a few hours at the Art Camp on the afternoon of Thursday, January 10, and I spent the whole day (approximately 10 am to 4 pm) at the Art Camp with a few forays into the wider RTR on Friday the 11th. On Friday, I spent most of my time organizing the supply tent. I managed to conduct five interviews while at the RTR.

I know I’ve been saying this for a couple of years, but I probably won’t attend the next RTR. I can do without the stress and expense involved in getting to Quartzsite in order to camp near strangers. I haven’t been to a seminar since 2015, I’m not interested in meeting people to caravan with, most of my friends don’t go to the RTR, and I don’t need any new long-distances friendships.

That said, I think the RTR is an invaluable resource for a lot of people. Folks considering living nomadically or beginning a nomadic life can get a wonderful education at the RTR seminars. Nomads who feel isolated and want to make connections with other people living similarly can meet scores of people at the RTR. Meeting new people can lead to friendships, caravans, collaborations, and sometimes even romance. I encourage all nomads who find the idea of the RTR even remotely appealing to brave the crowds and attend at least once.

Lingo

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If you’re a newbie attending the Women’s RTR at the end of the week or the RTR in the next two weeks, you may hear a lot of new terms. For the sake of public education, I decided to run this post from January 2016 again after revising and updating it.
/ˈliNGɡō/

noun

informal humorous

the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people

I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!

I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.

Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.

I boondocked on this BLM land.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.

Boondocking–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondocking interchangeably with dry camping, while others differentiate between the two and use boondocking only in relation to public land. To learn all about boondocking, read my post “10 Fundamentals for Boondockers.” My friend Coyote Sue calls dry camping in a parking lot blacktop boondocking .

Canned hamA trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side.

CasitaBrand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer.

*Class ARV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motor home.

*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.

*Class C—motor home with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.

CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, a fantastic online resource for anyone living on the road, no matter what kind of rig is involved. There’s also a Cheap RV Living YouTube channel for folks who’d rather watch videos.

I did some dispersed camping on Bureau of Reclaimation Land in New Mexico, and this was the view of the Rio Grande from my campsite.

*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping or boondocking.

Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondocking.

*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.

Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road all the time.

*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.

Motor home–An RV that has a motor in it so it can be driven; a motor home can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C.

Mr. Buddy–A brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.

Nomad–According to Merriam-Webster, this is a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory; an individual who roams about.

Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in a stationary home sometimes.

PopupA type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport.

The Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico is public land.

Public Land–Land owned by a local, state, or federal government. When rubber tramps and other nomads talk about public land, they typically mean land open to (usually free) camping. Public land can include city or county parks, fishing lakes, BLM land, Bureau of Reclamation Land, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national seashores and lakeshores.

Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.

This was my rig during one part of my life as a full-time rubber tramp/vandweller.

Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV.  A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C motor home. A rig can be a combination of a tow vehicle and a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup.

Rubber tramp–The Urban Dictionary says a rubber tramp is 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.” Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.

RTArt Camp–A camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, The RTArt Camp is a place within the larger gathering for nomadic artists and creative nomads to come together to share skills, create art together, have fun, and build community.

Rubber Tramp Art Community (RTAC)–An intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. Members of the group meet to camp together, create art together, teach each other new skills, help each other, and spend time together as a community.

So far, I’ve attended four RTRs.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Also see Cheap RV Living for more info about the RTR.

RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motor homes, 5th wheels, and travel trailers.


Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to Wikipedia,, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)

*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.

Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with men is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.

Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. Check out Cheap RV Living for “Bob’s 12 Commandants for Stealth Parking in the City” and “Stealth Parking Locations.”

Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.

Teardropa streamlined, compact, lightweight traveltrailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.

Toad–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.

Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.

*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.

During my time as a camp host, I cleaned this pit (or vault) toilet many times.

*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.

Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land; basically a tall plastic toilet set over a hole where the waste products sit until they are pumped out.

*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.

What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.

I took all the photos in this post.

10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert

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So you’re going to escape the worst of winter by heading to the deserts of Southern Arizona (the Sonoran), Southern New Mexico (the Chijuajuan) or Southern California (the Mojave). Maybe you’re going to Quartzsite to attend The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous or to stay in a Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). Congratulations!

While you probably won’t face seemingly unending days of ice and snow, a desert environment can pose its own challenges. If you’ve never been to the desert before (or you’re a desert dweller who needs some reminders to shake you out of your complacency), here are ten tips to help you survive and thrive in the desert.

#1 Drink plenty of water. Even if your winter desert isn’t hot, it’s still extremely dry. Even in the winter, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink before you feel thirsty.

#2 Alcohol can dehydrate you, so limit your consumption. The desert environment has probably already dehydrated you, and alcohol can make things worse. Take it slow with the alcohol until you determine how your body is reacting to the dry environment. If you’re drinking alcohol, up your water intake.

#3 Don’t get too much sun. Yes, you’ve escaped the harsh winter and the sun feels good on your skin, but don’t overdo it. Be sure you have some shade to escape to during the hottest part of the day; yes, even in the winter, a desert can get hot. Wear long pants and long sleeves made from light cotton to protect your skin, and wear sunscreen on any parts you leave uncovered. I use sunscreen on my face, and I wear my hat with the wide brim to further protect my face. My hat also provides a barrier between the sun and my head.

#4 Deserts can get cold too, so have appropriate gear. Even if a winter day in the desert is sunny and relatively warm, the night can get cold. Especially if you’re going to be out and about in the desert night, be prepared with long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and a warm hat. If you tend to feel cold and depending on the temperature, you may also need a jacket and gloves. If your ears are sensitive be prepared to protect them from the wind. Check the weather forecast before you head to your desert destination so you know what clothing you may need.

#5 Watch for Critters. You’re less likely to see a rattlesnake in the winter than the summer, but the snakes are still around. Especially on a warm and sunny day, rattlers may be on the move. Don’t stick your hands or feet into any crack or crevice you haven’t first visually inspected. If you do encounter a rattler (or any other snake) give it a wide berth so it has plenty of room to escape. Don’t poke or prod it, and let it be on its way.  If you are bitten by a nonpoisonous snake, clean the wound and get a tetanus shot if you need too. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake, get to an emergency room ASAP.

Turn your shoes upside down and shake them out before you put them on. This will help prevent your toes from meeting any unwelcome spider or scorpion visitors. Check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic about what to do if you’re stung by a scorpion before you need them. Maybe print out the tips and include them in your first aid kit.

Coyotes aren’t likely to attack an adult human but it does happen. They’re known to snatch cats and small dogs (even in broad daylight!) and lure larger dogs to their deaths. Don’t leave your pet unattended in the desert! Stay with your dog when it’s outside and keep it in your rig when you can’t watch it.

#6 Don’t get too close to cholla. Pronounced [chaw-yah], there are more than 20 species of this cactus in the deserts of North America. The joints of this cactus are attached very loosely and will easily attach to a person or dog who brushed by. The joints are full of spines, and if you touch them, you’re likely to be full of spines too!

Keep inquisitive dogs away from cholla. When a dog tries to sniff cholla, it usually ends up with spines in its nose. The dog then tries to use its paws to scratch at the spines in its nose, thus getting spines in its paws. The situation can quickly escalate into a full-blown mess.

According to the 2013 articled “How To Remove Cactus Spines From Your Perforated Body,” by Chris Clarke

Many desert rats accustomed to living in cholla country will carry a large comb with them: it’s an excellent tool for prying cholla stems off yourself.

#7 Be ready for wind and the dust it can bring. I grew up in the Deep South where the wind was nothing to get upset about unless we found ourselves in the midst of a hurricane. I began to learn about real wind when I moved to the Midwest, but I really didn’t know wind until I spent time in New Mexico and Arizona. A desert wind is quite a wind. It can blow hard for hours or days on end and whisk away folding tables and chairs and other gear you may have outside your rig. Any tents or easy-ups must be held down securely so the wind doesn’t blow them away and mangle them in the process.

Without moisture to hold it down, desert dust is easily blown around, sometimes leading to poor air quality. Be prepared to stay in your rig with the windows closed when the dust is at its worst.

#8 Don’t camp in arroyos or other low-lying areas. An arroyo (pronounced [uhroi-oh] and also known as a wash, gully, gulch, or ditch) is a place where water flows when it rains. (Yes, it rains in the desert, sometimes in the winter.) Even if it’s not raining where you are, a flashflood caused by heavy rain upstream can fill an arroyo with water suddenly and unexpectedly. I’m not talking a trickle of water; I’m talking enough water to wash away your camp.

In a footnote to a 2016 the Scientific America article “Instant Peril: Flash Floods (and How to Survive Them)“, author Dana Hunter offers some advice.

I can tell you from bitter experience that even though that flat, sandy wash bottom makes a bonza place to pitch a tent, it is horrible if there’s a thunderstorm in the night. At worst, you’re swept away and drowned. At best, you’re awakened in the middle of the night by the stream that’s now flowing through your sleeping bag, and you have to haul your soaked self and belongings to high ground. In the dark. In the rain. And you’ll do a terrible job pitching the tent. Where you won’t be able to sleep because you’re too wet.

#9 Be careful when driving through or parking on sand. It’s easy to get stuck in sand. Bob Wells has an excellent article about getting stuck and how to get unstuck on his Cheap RV Living blog. I suggest reading his post “Getting Stuck: How to Avoid it and What to Do if it Happensbefore you encounter desert sand.

#10 Old mines are dangerous; don’t go in them! There are thousands of abanoned mines on Bureau of Land Management sites throughout the deserts of the Southwest. I saw one while camping on BLM land outside Ajo, Arizona and did some research, leading me to write a blog post about what I disovered. The the BLM’s FAQ on Abandoned Mine Lands says such mines can lead to physical and human health hazards.

  • Physical hazards: Unsecured AML [Abandoned Mine Lands] sites pose a risk of death or serious injury by falling down open mine shafts.
  • Human health hazards: Exposure to toxic gases and chemicals, cave-ins, explosives, and water hazards endanger human health

If you see any signs like the one pictured here, stay safe by keeping your distance.

Don’t be discouraged! Being prepared for the challenges of the desert can help you avoid the environment’s pitfalls and increase your chances of enjoying yourself. I was in my 40s before I grew acquainted with the desert, but now it’s my winter destinations of choice. You might find you grow to love it too!

Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every problem you might encounter in the desert. Only you are responsible for you! Do your research before you head to the desert, use common sense, and think before you act.

I took all the photos in this post.

(Guest Post) A new way of living

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Today’s guest blog is by my friend Nina. I met Nina a couple of years ago at a gathering for people interested in van dwelling. We don’t see each other often, but we stay in touch electronically. Nina has been very supportive of my life and my writing. Today you can read her story.

Thank you to my dear friend Blaize for having faith in me and asking me to write an article for her blog!

Two years ago, being 50 years young and having to resign from a full time permanent position with a government environmental agency was the beginning of a new way of living for me. This same agency had been my employment with seasonal, term and lastly a permanent position for a total of about 11 years. It was my planned career and retirement until fate intervened. The stressful permanent position was an office job, unlike the prior office/outdoor Nature dominated tenure.  The stress had been building through the years and I was researching various other options.

RVing full-time and van living was on my radar. I had come across a website, www.cheaprvliving.com by Bob Wells, which resounded with my unique ideas and philosophy.  It was a great source of information and I started bookmarking articles that were important to me! It seemed that the RV life would be feasible after I retired.

A renovation had started in our work building and certain floors were being worked on two at a time. When it came time for our floor, the tearing out and replacing the carpet, plastic baseboard, paint and the various glues, dust and cleaner smells were too much for my body to endure. Accommodations were made by moving my desk, files and phone onto another unrenovated floor until the work process was complete.

When I returned to my new cubicle, the smells and chemicals were causing headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea as I tried to tough it out. My symptoms were discussed with my supervisor and off I went to my Naturopath Doctor (ND) in another city. The ND and I had a good relationship for several years prior. My prior positions had involved herbicide and pesticide applications along with my other outdoor duties.  Chemical sensitivities, allergies and various intestinal issues appeared that had me turn to natural medicine and eating healthier.  Meeting her had changed my life! She helped me understand the antibiotics and drugs the regular Medical Doctor (MD) had given in prior illnesses only dealt with symptoms not the real problem.  A wide array of blood tests that included the liver were run and compared to my prior tests. The ND discussed the results which showed my liver was overwhelmed with toxins and was dumping them for other organs to try to handle.

The agency then put out canisters designed to detect dangerous chemicals and sent them to a lab for testing. After reporting the ND results to my supervisor, the agency decided they wanted my tests redone by a qualified MD in order to accommodate me. In the meantime, the canisters came back with no harmful toxins or chemicals in the air. It was discussed with my ND and decided that for me to recover as much as possible, exposure to the area was to be limited. Choosing between money/career vs. my health was made. Resignation was the hard, but clear choice.

It was then the realization of how full-timing, van living could possibly improve my health!  A van was chosen, because of my financial situation. Each day afterwards there have been many adventures, challenges and new people, both good and bad. It would have been harder without the wonderful support of many people including Blaize!

Lingo

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lin·go
/ˈliNGɡō/

noun

informal humorous
the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people

from https://www.google.com/search?q=lingo+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!

I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.

Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.

Boondock–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondock interchangeably with dry camp, while others differentiate between the two and use boondock only in relation to public land.

Canned ham–(I just learned this one a few days ago.) A trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side. (http://www.theladyisatramp.net/definitions/)

Casita–Brand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer. (http://casitatraveltrailers.com/)

*Class ARV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motorhome.

*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.

*Class CRV with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.

CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, the website, as in http://www.cheaprvliving.com/.

*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping.

Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondock.

*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.

Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road.

*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.

Mr. Buddy–a brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.

Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in her/his own conventional home sometimes.

Popup–A type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popup_camper)

Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.

Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV. A rig can be a motorhome. A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C. A rig can be a combination of a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup and a tow vehicle.

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) Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road, group meals, and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR; see those posts here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/27/thoughts-on-the-rtr-2015/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/23/report-on-the-2016-rubber-tramp-rendezvous/. Also see http://www.cheaprvliving.com/gatherings/ for more info about the RTR.

RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motorhomes, 5th wheels, travel trailers, and Classes A, B, and C.

Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakedown_cruise, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)

*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.

Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with a man is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.

Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. For more on stealth parking, see http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/bobs-12-commandments-for-stealth-parking-in-the-city/ and http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/stealth-parking-locations-part-2/.

Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.

Teardropa streamlined, compact, lightweight travel trailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear. (https://www.google.com/search?q=teardrop+trailer+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8.)

Toad–(This was a new one to me at the 2016 RTR.)–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.

Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.

*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.

*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.

Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land.

*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.

What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.

Mr Heater A323000 Buddy Heater

 


Book Review: How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells

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Yesterday I mentioned reading How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom by Bob Wells. Today I am posting a review I wrote of Bob’s book. This review might help you decide if you want to read and/or own the book.

How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom
This book is a quick read. I finished it in a couple of hours. However, just because I’m finished reading it doesn’t mean I’m finished with it. This is a book I’m going to hold on to.

Not only does the author tell the reader the hows of living in a car, van, or RV, he explains the whys too. If you have been considering moving into your car, van, or RV but everyone in your life (from the media to your mom) tells you you’re crazy, read this book!

Once you have decided that mobile living is the life for you (save money! live simply!) Bob Wells will walk you through every step of the process, from deciding what kind of vehicle to purchase (if you have the option of choosing) to getting electricity and keeping your food cold.

This book is for the absolute beginner, but even though I’ve been vandwelling for a while, I learned a thing or too, and the chapter on electricity gave me some food for thought.

I wish I’d had this book when I was starting my vandwelling odyssey.

If you are considering this way of life, get this book and read it cover to cover.

The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: How I Decided to Go

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When I started writing about the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I realized the topic is huge. First I thought I’d write one post about the event. Then I decided to write two separate posts, one about each week of the gathering. Then I decided I should write a post about how I decided to attend the event before I actually wrote about the event. So here’s Part 1 of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous saga.

While spending the winter in Truth or Consequences, NM, I met a traveling artist named Sue. I met Sue because she introduced herself at the coffee shop after seeing me around. Twenty minutes after our initial conversation, we ran into each other at the thrift store. Such is the joy of living in a small town.

While chatting in the thrift store, Sue asked me if I’d ever checked out the Cheap RV Living website. I had not, but I soon took a look at it.

I was very excited to find that the Cheap RV Living website is more about van dwelling than it is about RV living. It’s a website by and for people like me, people who live simply, who live in their vans and travel. I was super excited to explore the website and learn more.

The first thing I learned is that the guy who does the website, Bob Wells, lived in a van for many years. He now lives in a tiny trailer, but he still lives on the road. Bob wrote the book about living in vans. No, I’m not speaking metaphorically. Bob actually wrote a book about living in vehicles. The book is called How to Live In a Car, Van, or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom. I ordered it and was quite excited to read it. (Read my review of the book.)

The more I poked around Bob’s website, the more I learned.

The most exciting thing I learned was about being a camp host. I’ve already written about my misconceptions about that job, so you know that Bob’s description of being a camp host really opened my eyes. I began to think that I might want to be a camp host at some point in the future.

I learned that in the past, Bob had organized and hosted gatherings for people who live the van/car/RV dwelling life. He called this the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous.

On day in early December of 2014, I was on the Cheap RV Living website and clicked on the “Gatherings” link. I was surprised to see that the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was scheduled for January 6-20, 2015 in Quartzsite, AZ. That was in just a few weeks! I already had the rest of my winter, as well as my spring and summer, mapped out. Should I change all my plans?

I immediately wrote an email to my closest friends: “The idea of attending is both terrifying and exhilarating. Terrifying: New People (will anyone like me?  will I like anyone? will I make friends? Social anxiety!) No toilet facilities (Hmmmm, I thought I’d have a whole big list of terrifying, but I guess those are really the only two things I can come up with. But the new people part is HUGE.) Exhilarating: New People (possible new friends under the age of 50, people who are also living in their vans [or at least want to] Lots of New Information (like maybe how to get a job not involving sitting it the scorching sun all day and convincing people that the fruit of my heart and fingers is worthy of their dollars) Seeing Places I’ve Never Seen Before

So should I change all my plans and go to this gathering? Probably yes, right? Do I have anything to lose?”

(The Lady of the House sent me the shortest, sweetest response: “You are very likable!  You would make new friends.”)

So I decided to go. I decided to leave Truth or Consequences a month earlier than planned. I decided to go to Quartzite and meet new people and see things I’d never seen before. I decided to learn more about being a camp host. I decided to let go of my plans and start all over again.

Being a Camp Host

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Have you ever been to a campground with a camp host? The camp host might come around and make sure camping fees are paid. Camp hosts can answer questions and sometimes sell firewood.

Until recently I thought camp hosts were typically older couples. I thought people working as camp hosts had to live in big, fancy RVs with full hookups. I thought the only thing camp hosts received in exchange for their hosting was a place to park their big, fancy RVs. I recently learned that the beliefs I had about camp hosting are not always true.

Sometimes camp hosts are older couples, but younger people and single people and single younger people work as camp hosts too. Some camp host jobs require a couple, but the two people in the couple don’t necessarily have to be romantically involved. The two people in the couple might be required to share a living space, but they could be buddies or best friends or a parent and adult child. My understanding is that some jobs are too big for one person, but there’s only one allocated spot for the hosts’ living space, so the “couple” shares the living space and each does his/her portion of the job.

It turns out that not all camp hosts live in big, fancy RVs with full hookups. The RVs of some camp hosts are not so big and fancy, and some have no hookups. Even van dwellers can be camp hosts! In fact, sometimes it is difficult to find people to work at campgrounds with no or only partial hookups. RVers who have all the bells and whistles tend to want to use them, so RVers with sewage/water/electric capabilities usually want to work at campgrounds where they can hook everything up. So it sometimes helps folks get a job if they have no need or desire for water/sewage/electric hookups.

At some campgrounds, camp hosts only get “paid” with a free spot to park their RV. That can be a pretty good deal if the camp host doesn’t have to work many hours a day and if s/he already has an income. (I could not meet my needs if I were not receiving monetary compensation of some amount.) However, in other camp host positions, workers receive a free spot to live, as well as an hourly wage.

I have applied for a camp host job with a company that runs campsites on federal land and is responsible for hiring all staff needed. Each campground provides a spot for the camp host(s) to park his/her/their rig, AND pays state minimum wage for every hour worked.

Of course, I have not yet worked as a camp host, so I can’t tell you all about it. Bob Wells has worked as a camp host (for four summers, I think), so if you want to read about his experiences, go to his blog at http://www.cheaprvliving.com/workamping/ and read his story. (On the Workamping page, scroll about a third of the way down to “What is the job like?”)

Hopefully I will get my own camp host job this summer, and then I’ll be able to share my experiences.