Tag Archives: Bob Wells

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.