Tag Archives: Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap

Dirty Dog

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Jerico is a good dog. We’ve been friends from the moment we met at the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous). He jumped up and put his paws on me, which I usually hate, but he was so cute, I didn’t even care.

The Man trained Jerico to protect his camp. One night when we were in the tent on New Mexico BLM lnad, I heard Jerico growl from under the blankets. Even though he was completely covered, his dog senses told him someone or something was out there. The Man unzipped the tent’s flap and saw a nonpredetor creature (he wasn’t sure exactly what it was) on a ridge above our camp. We figured we were safe, so we all went to sleep.

Now that Jerico and The Man live with me, the dog considers the van his camp and is very protective of it. The times people have knocked on the van in the night, Jerico’s come flying out of the bed barking and growling at the intruders. When we leave him in the van to go into a store, we know he’s protecting our van home.

What Jerico loves most in the whole world is playing ball. Actually, that is an understantment. It is more

This ball may be more than Jerico can handle.

accurate to say Jerico is a fiend for playing ball. He’s obssessed with playing ball. He wants to play ball every waking moment. I suspect his dreams are filled with playing ball.

Of course, it’s difficult for a dog to play fetch alone, so Jerico needs a human to play with him, He doesn’t care what human plays, and he thinks every human he meets is a potential ball thrower. Any time a new person enters the van, Jerico think the person should be throwing the ball for him.

Jerico barking, trying to get me to throw the ball.

Jerico has a technique for getting someone to play ball. First he brings the ball close to his target. Then he stands there and looks from the ball to the person, back to the ball, then back to the person, rapidly and repeatedly. If the person does not understand his/her role and throw the ball, Jerico begins to bark loudly. You’re so bossy, I tell him often. If the person does not throw the ball, Jerico might pick it up in his mouth and move it closer to his mark. If that doesn’t work, he’ll try the looking, then the barking again.

He’s a master of intention, The Man says of Jerico. He knows eventually the ball will be thrown.

I imagine he’s attempting mind control on the humans. Throw the ball. Throw the ball. Throwtheballthrowtheballthrowtheball, I imagine he thinks until someone does.

If one is sitting and has been able to resit throwing the ball this long, Jerico tries another tactic. He picks up the ball in his mouth and deposits it gently in his target’s lap. He is totally stealthy, and I (and others) usually don’t notice what he’s doing. Suddenly the ball is in my lap or in the bed between where The Man and I are lying, and I never even saw it happen.

Jerico was looking at the ball with intention. He was trying to use mind control to get me to throw it.

When someone finally (finally!) throws the ball, Jerico is all focus. No matter how far anyone throws–or hits with a raquet, as The Man does–the ball, Jerico is going to keep hunting until he finds it.

Be careful where you hit the ball, The Mantold me when we were on New Mexico BLM land. I had started hitting the ball with the raquet too, but my aim wasn’t as good as The Man’s. If it goes into a cactus, he’s not going to stop. He’ll dive right in and end up full of spines. He’d jump off a cliff after that ball.

When we went back to Northern New Mexico, we visited a friend who lives out in the middle of the sage, at least a mile from the nearest neighbor and ten miles from the nearest place to buy a candy bar. It’s a great place for The Man to whack the ball for Jerico, except for the pond.

The Man didn’t mean to send the ball into the pond. I didn’t see it happen, but I suddenly heard The Man yelling No! and Stop! and Don’t! Of course, Jerico didn’t heed any of those commands because he was after the ball.

This is the pond in Northern New Mexico into which Jerico dove after the ball.

By the time I made it over to the pond, Jerico was out of it and rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to

Jerico was rolling around in the dirt in an attempt to dry himself.

dry himself. He jumped up and shook, and I saw he was shivering in the cool March morning breeze. He was, of course, filthy.

He cannot get in the van like that! I told The Man.

The Man and I formulated a plan. We lured Jerico back into the pond with the precious ball so the water could rinse the dirt and mud from his body. As soon as he pulled himself out  of the pond, I grabbed his collar so he couln’t roll in the dirt again. The Man had a towel ready to dry him. When water no longer dripped from the dog’s fur, The Man carried him over to an empty, stationary van our friend has on the property. We isolated Jerico in the van (windows open!) where he could shake off the water to his heart’s content and dry out of the wind. When he was dry, we let him out.

Jerico was filthy.

The man promised to be more careful about where he hit the ball, but a couple of months later, he caused a similar–but worse–situation.

We’d spend the night at a truck stop and in the morning, The Man took Jerico to the empty lot next door to play ball. The Man hit the ball down a small hill, and Jerico disappeared from view. He came back–ball in mouth–wet and coated in a slimy, greasy mud. The Man brought the pup back to the van and asked for my help in cleaning him up.

I fetched water in the dishpan we used as Jerico’s water bowl. The Man had to use soap this time to remove the nasty mud. Thank goodness for Dr. Bronner’s Pepermint! The Man soaped Jerico, then I slowly poured water to rinse his fur.

We couldn’t even be mad at Jerico as we cleaned him because The Man knew he would chase that ball into any situation. If a ball’s thrown or whacked or otherwise propelled through the air, Jerico is going to go after it.  The humans have to be carful of where they send the ball, or they’re going to end up with a dirty dog.

Jerico is quite the handsome dog when he is clean.

 

Wild Magnolias

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My friends and I were on an epic road trip to see Lou partway home.

Lou was in her car heading to Ohio to decide on her next move. Shortly before we left town, a friend of a friend said he wanted to go to the Midwest too, so Lou had agreed to take him on as a passenger.

Sheff and I and his dog Wednesday were in his car. Sheff did all the driving because I didn’t know how. I read aloud an article about glaciers to keep us both awake during the hottest part of the day.

Our first stop was in New Orleans, where we spent a few days crashing at the home of our sweet friend Kel. If she was surprised by a virtual stranger among us, she didn’t let it interfere with her hospitality.

It was the same with my former neighbor when the four of us went to her apartment for Cajun cooking. Of course, the neighbor had never met any of these friends, so she didn’t know who was close and whom I barely knew.

Our next stop was Mississippi. We spent a night at a state park. As was our habit, we didnt set up tents. Instead, we lay our sleeping bags on tarps and looked up at the stars until we fell asleep. It rained a little in the early morning, and, wanting to stay dry, I scrunched myself into the tiny back seat of Sheff’s compact car.  When I woke up again, the rain had stopped, but my muscles were kinked, and I felt grumpy and disoriented. Sheff handed me a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap and suggested I wash my face with it.

Nothing’s so bad that Dr. Bronner’s peppermint and a clean face can’t help, he told me. He was right. It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten. Dr. Bronner and his peppermint soap have cheered me many times.

We drove for a couple more hours, then stopped for lunch at a Japanese restaurant. The interior of the restaurant was clean and cool, and the food was delicious. Still, I felt sad because I knew when the meal was over, I’d say good-bye to Lou. I had no idea when–or if–I’d see her again.

We parted ways in the parking lot amidst hugs and tears. I didn’t think even Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap could mend the hole in my heart my friend’s absence was already causing.

Sheff and I journeyed on to the De Soto National Forest for a couple days of camping. I’d never been there before. I don’t think Sheff had either.

I wasn’t much of a hiker and backcountry camper (I’m still not), but I was basically along for the ride and willing to join in on whatever Sheff wanted to do. I followed him out into the forest, even though I was wearing a tiny dress and inappropriate shoes.

During our second day of camping, Sheff went on a long hike with his dog, and I chose to stay behind with the tent. Our whole time in the forest seems like a dream now, so many years later. Brief memories of the time flash through my mind when I try to remember those days.

Flash! I’m sitting against a tree, writing in my journal when an armadillo comes crashing into our camp. While we are surprised to see each other, the critter doesn’t seem scared of me and ambles away.

Flash! I’ve taken off my clothes, and I’m stretched out in a shallow, muddy, barely flowing body of water. The cool water feels good on my sweaty skin, but I worry someone will come along and see my nakedness. I slip my dress over my head and go back to camp.

Flash! Sheff is back and making dinner. I’m impressed by the way he can cook on his tiny backpacking stove.

Flash! It’s dark, and we’re all in the tent. Sheff’s in his sleeping bag, and I’m in mine. Wednesday the dog wiggles between us at some time in the night, and I wake to find she’s pushed me until I’m up against the tent’s side wall. Her dirty paws have left sand in my sleeping bag.

What I remember most about the camping trip are the magnolia trees growing wild in the forest. Before that day, I’d only seen magnolias growing in cities and towns. I’d assumed people had planted them. It had never occurred to me that magnolias would grow wild, that magnolias could be a natural part of a forest environment.

Those magnolias are growing just to grow, I marveled. No one planted them here.

I couldn’t stop looking at thse trees, thinking about them. They weren’t there to please people. Those magnolias belonged to themselves and were growing for themselves.

After all these years, I still think of those trees out in the Mississippi forest, growing just to grow.

 

 

My Shower System

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Last summer, I spent a lot of time and money to stay clean. (Maybe I should say “cleanish” since I was only showering once a week.) I drove a minimum of thirteen miles (and sometimes as many as 73 miles) to shower. I paid a minimum of $10 (but usually $12) to shower, plus all the gas it took me to get to a place where I could clean up. I decided I had to find a better (or at least cheaper, closer) way to get clean this summer.

ZODI Outback Gear Hot Tap Travel Shower
I looked into a Zodi shower system after meeting a man last summer who told me how much he liked his. The Zodi has two components: a heating coil powered by propane (specifically, one of those small, green canisters) and a pump powered by D batteries. Cold water passes over the heating element and becomes hot (or at least warm) and the pump squirts water out, if not with as much force as a conventional shower head, at least in a gentle stream.

The Zodi seemed like a good way to go, but the $150 price tag was more than I could afford when it came time to buy supplies for the summer. On top of the cost of the Zodi, I also needed a privacy tent, the cost of which would increase my investment. I started researching other methods.

I knew I wanted something more complex than baby wipes. I used wipes last summer for in-between cleanup (and I use them for the same purpose now), but wipes just aren’t enough. I get dirty as a camp host (especially my legs, even though I wear long pants), and swipes with wipes don’t get me nearly clean enough.

I didn’t think one of those solar shower bags was going to work for me either. Most of them hold five gallons of water, which is 40 pounds. Too heavy. How am I going to carry that, much less hang it? I know I could buy a smaller one or fill a large one only partially full, but I was also concerned the plastic would suffer a puncture or come apart at the seams. Also, a shower bag needs to hang, and none of the trees on my campsite have branches at an appropriate height. I wasn’t convinced a solar shower bag would work, and I didn’t want to pay to experiment with one.

In a Facebook group I was in, a woman mentioned using a garden sprayer as a shower. When questioned, she admitted she used hers while wearing a bathing suit, out in the open, just to rinse off after hiking. But I thought I could use a similar sprayer to take a soap and water shower.

I went to Wal-Mart and poked around in the garden department. There were several sprayers to chose from. While these sprayers are intended to be used to spray a variety of pesticides, they’re sold empty, not contaminated with killer chemicals. (I don’t recommend using a sprayer that’s had killer chemicals in it.)

The sprayers I saw held either one or two gallons of water. I chose a larger one because I was concerned one gallon of water would not be enough for my cleaning need, although one gallon has proven to be plenty. I wish I had gotten the smaller one. The water in the container doesn’t get nearly as warm as does the water in one gallon plastic water jugs. Also, the less full the container is, the more pumping it takes to pressurize it.

In any case, the sprayer I bought (according to http://www.walmart.com/ip/13376325?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227008776090&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=41079622592&wl4=pla-60819427766&wl5=9031687&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=13376325&wl13=&veh=sem, it’s the RL Flo-Master Sprayer) cost under $15. (The aforementioned website lists the price as $13.86.) There may have been a one-gallon size that cost slightly less.

This is my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

This photo shows my shower sprayer. The handle doubles as the pump.

Since the sprayer works through pressurization, the handle also serves as a pump. After 30 to 40 pumps, the water comes out of the nozzle in a pretty good stream, not nearly as strong as water coming out of a shower head, but strong enough to rinse soap from my body.

The second piece of equipment I wanted to buy was a privacy tent. I wanted to take full-on, soapy, naked showers, not just rinse around a bathing suit. Since I figured neither my campers nor the company I work for would want me frolicking au naturel in public, I decided I needed a privacy tent.

I researched a lot of privacy tents and read many online reviews before I settled on something. The cheap ones seemed to be poorly made. (No surprise there.) I certainly didn’t want something that ripped the first time I zipped it, even if I hadn’t paid much for it. A ripped tent is a worthless tent, even if it didn’t involve much out-of-pocket expense.

I bought a Field and Stream brand privacy tent, partially because it got good reviews and partially because I was able to buy it at a chain sporting goods store in the city where I picked up the last of my supplies before I went into the forest. I paid $64.49 for it (including tax). As of mid August (after setting it up in early June), the tent is doing great, with no rips or broken zipper.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

This photo shows my Field and Stream brand privacy tent.

(Note: Nearly every review I read mentioned that while this sort of tent is super easy to set up, getting it back into a flat circle in order to return it to its carry bag is usually an ordeal. I’m not eager for the day I have to take down the tent.)

I also purchased a cheap bathmat to stand on when I’m showering, since the privacy tent doesn’t have a floor. I wear shower shoes while I’m cleaning up, so I could do without the bathmat.

My shower system isn’t complicated. In the morning of the day I want to take a shower, I carry the sprayer ( with whatever water is left in it from my last shower) and two or three plastic jugs filled with water out to the meadow. I set the water containers in a spot that will get sun for the next several hours.

After I finish my work for the day, I carry the containers of water back to my campsite. I’ve found it works best if I add one gallon of the warm water to the

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

This photo shows my jugs of water sitting in the meadow, warming in the sun.

sprayer reservoir, since the water in there stays cooler than the water in the other jugs. I place all my wash water in the privacy tent. I also place soap, shampoo, the wonderful microfiber towel my host family gave me, and a house dress in the pockets in the tent.

I get into the tent and zip the door mostly closed. As I take my clothes off, I toss them out of the tent, onto a chair I’v placed nearby for this purpose. Then I zip the door completely.

I start from my top and wash down. First I pour water from a gallon jug over my head to wet my hair. (Depending on how hot the day’s been, sometimes the water is as warm as what comes from a hot water tap.) Then I lather my hair with shampoo and use more water from the jug to rinse.

Washing my hair leaves the rest of me adequately wet. I wet a washcloth with water from one of the plastic jugs, then pour some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap onto the cloth. When I finish scrubbing one area of my body, I use the sprayer to rinse off the soap, pumping as necessary to build up pressure so I get a strong, steady stream of water. If I find a body part is no longer wet enough, I use the sprayer to squirt some water on myself.

My system would work best for someone who can set up a privacy tent where it won’t be blown away by heavy winds. It may not work very well for someone who’s changing locations a lot, although folding the privacy tent may get easier with practice. Also, one review I read indicated the owner of the privacy tent had been told s/he couldn’t shower on his her campsite because it was going to leave a soggy mess for the next campers; different locations will have different rules. I don’t think it would be a problem while boondocking on BLM land in the Southwest.

While I am happy with my shower system, I think I could have gotten along without the sprayer and just used a couple of gallons of water in jugs to clean with. In any case, it’s nice to be clean more than once a week. Of course, it’s also great not to have to spend a bunch of money to get that way.

 

 

Adventures in Cleanliness

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When I tell people I live in my van, I’m often asked Where do you shower?

The answer of course is It depends.

No, my van doesn’t have a shower (or a toilet or a sink or any kind of water hookups or drain).

When I was homeless and living in a picnic pavilion at a rest area, I had two friends who’d let me clean up at their places.

The Jewelry Lady had a tiny little efficiency apartment, but every couple of weeks she’d invite me over. This woman (the picture of Southern hospitality despite being born and raised in New England) would offer me the use of her bathroom so I could take a nice, long, hot shower while she cooked us a fantastic dinner. When I was clean and fed, we’d hang out and talk or make jewelry while listening to Coast to Coast. This woman continues to be my dear friend.

Madame Chile would take me out to her place some weekends. She actually had a guest cottage–a storage shed with electricity. She had a cozy rug on the floor and a reading lamp on the nightstand next to the fluffy comfy bed. It was such a joy to have my own room, even just for one night. Although we’d wake up at a ridiculous hour of the morning to get good spots to sell our wares, I slept so well there, knowing I was absolutely safe.

But for all that goodness, the best part of going home with Madame Chile was her outdoor bathtub! She had a big, plastic livestock water trough nestled in a secluded spot on her property. She even had the hose running to it connected to an outdoor hot water faucet, so I’d get a nice hot bath. I called it her cowgirl bathtub and enjoyed the wonderful decadence of scrubbing up under the sunset sky.

Whenever I’m in the area, of course I visit The Jewelry Lady, and of course she offers me a shower. Madame Chile has moved to another state, so sadly I don’t get to see her or utilize the cowgirl bathtub.

My last boyfriend lives on land ten miles from the nearest convenience store  and probably fifteen miles from the nearest town (which is actually a village). When we were together, he didn’t have indoor plumbing or running water, so when I stayed there, I’d take outdoor showers.

To take a “shower,” I’d heat water on the propane stove. When the water was hot, I’d stand somewhere outside (usually out of the dirt on a wooden porch or large stepping stones) and use some of the water to wet my skin. Then I’d lather up. (I was–and still am– particularly fond of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap.) Once I was clean, I’d use the rest of the water to rinse off the soap. The most difficult part of the process was staying warm. If I waited too late in the day for my shower and the temperature dropped, I didn’t want to get out of my clothes. If I was already naked–or heaven forbid–naked and wet and the wind kicked up, I was a miserable lady.

Whenever I house sit, one of the perks is the indoor plumbing, particularly being able to take a hot shower or bath whenever I want. And when I’m staying with family or friends, of course I have access to showers.

When I’m traveling, I don’t worry about showering every day. During the two months I was on the road with Mr. Carolina, I think I took five showers (one in the hotel bathroom of a regional Rainbow Gathering focalizer we met in Nevada, two in the hotel room we shared with the boys before they caught their flight to Guatamala City, one at Lil C’s mom’s house, and one at the Okie’s great-grandmother’s house), supplemented by a couple of soaks in hot springs. I’ve adjusted to not showering every day (or every week!) especially if I’m staying in places that aren’t too hot or too humid.

For rubber tramps with money who want to clean up, truck stops are an option. Many truckers have sleeping quarters in their rigs, but no running water, so truck stops cater to those folks by offering shower facilities. Showers are usually free for folks purchasing a certain (usually large) amount of fuel. For the rest of us, the cost is usually around ten bucks.

When I was in Quartzsite for the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I knew about a few options for cleaning up (other than getting naked behind my van and soaping up). Quarzsite boasts both Flying J and Love’s truck stops, so I could have paid to shower at either place, but I was too cheap for that. Instead, I decided to go to a religious outreach place called the Isaiah 58 Project that I’d heard offered free showers. (Learn more about the Isaiah 58 Project here: https://www.isaiah58project.info/home.html.)

The Isaiah 58 Project is located in what I can only describe as a compound. It’s fenced. There are several buildings and some camper trailers (and I think a bus) within the fence. I went in the wrong gate and saw what seemed to be people’s homes and decided it was all too weird, and I wasn’t going to take a shower there. I left and went across the street to the Salvation Army thrift store. Later when I left the thrift store and walked back to my van, I realized there was another entrance to the Isaiah 58 Project compound. Through the second gate was a building with a cross on it. A-ha! A church!

I pulled my van across the street, then tried to find an office with a person who could tell me the procedure. No luck. I think I either saw a sign directing me to the showers, or I saw people waiting…I don’t really remember how, but I figured it out.

After I got my stuff together, I found people in line ahead of me. I sat in one of the plastic chairs in the already beating down sun (no shade available) and waited my turn. Some people were waiting, but not in line, so a couple of times I thought I was next, only to have some guy (I was the only woman waiting for a shower) pop out of somewhere and say he was next.

Finally, it was my turn. The first thing I realized was that there was only one working shower and no one was cleaning it between uses. I was grateful I was wearing my purple plastic shower shoes.

The second thing I noticed was that the lock on the door didn’t seem very secure. Or maybe I noticed that there wasn’t a lock on the door. Again, I’m a little fuzzy on the details. In any case I had a moment of doubt about my safety. Was I going to get raped in the religious outreach shower? Then I figured I’d made it too far to back out.

The third thing I noticed was that the shower room (a large room with a toilet, a sink, and two shower stalls–one of which was blocked off because it didn’t work–at the far end) looked really grungy and drab and not exactly sparkling clean. Again I thought about leaving, but again I decided I’d gone to far to turn back.

So I got naked and took my shower. No one came into the room to attack me (and for that I am grateful). The hot water and soap (I’d brought my own  Dr. Bronner’s peppermint) felt good, but I spent my allotted ten minutes not only hurrying and worrying for my safety, but also trying to avoid touching the walls. Not relaxing.

I didn’t go back the Isaiah 58 Project for a shower during my second week in Quartzsite. I didn’t feel desperately dirty enough to go there again. (I was going back to my host family in the city, so I knew I could shower again as soon as I got there.)

When I got my current job as a camp host, my boss didn’t ask about how I was going to shower. I knew the campground didn’t have water, so I figured I’d just go the wet wipe route. (Wet wipes  are quite useful for clean-up without running water, especially when one has the luxury of the privacy of a van.)

Then I met my co-worker. She was pleasant, but the moment we were alone, she asked the question.

Does your van have a shower?

When I told her no, she followed up with, So how do you clean up?

I told her I used wet wipes, and she seemed skeptical. She said she couldn’t go more than a couple of days without a shower.

Uh-Oh! I knew this woman was going to be sniffing me out. I knew that if she detected a whiff–one measly whiff–of body odor, she would  mention it to someone who would mention it to someone, and I would find myself having an uncomfortable interaction with my boss. It looked like I would soon find myself paying for a shower.

To read more about how I stay clean while living in my van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/18/more-adventures-in-cleanliness/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/09/adventures-in-cleanliness-revisited/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/12/another-adventure-in-cleanliness/.