Tag Archives: Quartzsite

Update on the 2018 RTR

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It’s just not the same, I heard a variety of people say about the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

Well, no, it wasn’t the same.

This year wasn’t the same as the first RTR I attended in 2015. That year, the people who’d been attending since the early days of the gathering were complaining—or at least observing—that the RTR wasn’t like it once was.

The biggest change is always the increase in attendance. In 2015, when maybe 100 people were at the RTR, founders of the event remembered fondly when only 40 people attended and everyone sat around the fire together and shared food at community meals.

The community meals were one of my favorite parts of the RTR in 2015 and 2016, but they were left off the schedule in 2017 because the group had grown too large for anyone not experienced in cooking for crowds to prepare soup or chili for everyone. No one stepped up to the challenge, so that avenue of socializing was no longer available to me and others who used the excuse of food as a good reason to gather and mingle.

I’ve heard varying estimates of how many people attended the 2018 RTR. I’m sure Bob Wells put up a video on his You Tube channel where he names a figure. A New York Times article about this year’s Rendezvous said the BLM estimated the number to be over 3,000. Even without knowing exactly how many people attended over ten days, I can tell you, the 2018 RTR was huge!

The RTR was already huge the day before it officially started.

I was working with my friend Coyote Sue to make the RTArt Camp happen. Unfortunately, Coyote Sue was stuck 20 miles up the road with her broke down Class C, so the task of finding the space set aside for the RTArt Camp fell to me. When Coyote Sue contacted the main RTR organizer to say I’d be arriving first, she was told no space was being held for the art camp because when the organizers arrived, early birds had taken the area that was supposed to be for us. (I have no idea if those early birds were asked to move or even told they were parked in an area intended for a planned RTR activity.)

Because no space had been held for the RTArt Camp, The Man and I were tasked with finding a good spot. It was before noon on the day before the gathering began, and people were already packed in pretty close. There was no space to accommodate several rigs plus several tables anywhere near the main seminar area.

I was growing increasingly stressed. I could handle claiming a spot that had been earmarked for me, but finding and staking out a spot on my own was not an easy task. I was really worried about picking a spot Coyote Sue was going to hate. (I shouldn’t have worried. Coyote Sue is always easygoing and believes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She is a pleasure to work with, and I thoroughly enjoyed assisting her with the art camp.)

Thankfully, The Man talked to a guy who gave us the tip to immediately veer to the left after we pulled onto the music camp road. We took his suggestion and found a roomy spot in an area that wasn’t too crowded. The RTArt Camp was about a five minute walk from the main gathering area, but the necessary crossing of a quite deep wash kept some artsy folks, especially folks with disabilities, away.

Coyote Sue and I went to the seminar on the first official day of the RTR to make an announcement about the activities going on at the art camp. Literally hundreds of people were gathered to learn the basics of the RTR in particular and Quartzsite in general. Instead of letting us make our announcement first, Bob made us wait until sometime in the middle of his presentation. I hadn’t planned to stay for the seminar, but because I was there, I got to hear some of what Bob told the masses.

After asking everyone in the audience to turn off their recording devices, he said he wanted to be the only person recording and posting videos of the seminars online. Then he asked people to request permission from other folks before taking their photo or including them in videos. He pointed out that some people are in situations where it is unsafe for their image to appear online, but then said if keeping one’s image off the internet was a matter of life or death, folks in such a situation should probably leave because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Bob went on to talk a lot about how all of us there were part of a tribe and how we should be kind to each other and kind to the earth. He said he was happy to see all of us, whether we’d been on the road for 20 years or if the night before was the first time we’d slept in our car. He said we all needed each other and the most important part of the RTR was meeting people and making friends. It was an inspiring little speech, and I left feeling good, although I was happy enough to get the heck out of there after Coyote Sue and I finally make our announcement.

As in years past, the free pile was a highlight of the RTR for me. This year I was much farther from it than in years past, so I was able to check it less often. Still, I found lots of great stuff, including several bags of mostly glass beads and colorful plastic “jewels.” I took what I wanted and donated the rest to the RTArt Camp. I also got an orange t-shirt, an orange striped cloth tote bag, a bright pair of sneakers, a pair of Minnetonka moccasins (which I immediately lost, never to see again), and an easily rolled up sleeping pad from Land’s End. The Man got a really nice, large backpack (so he left his too-small Kelty backpack in the pile for someone else to enjoy), a Nalgene water bladder backpack, and a warm Carhartt jacket in pretty good condition. Jerico wasn’t left out; we got him a soft bed and a thin blanket so he can sleep comfortably and be covered but not get too hot. I didn’t find as much food as I did in years past, maybe because I was being picky about what I grabbed. (I could have acquired ten pounds of white rice, but I’d rather eat brown.) I did get a hug bag of caramel kettle corn, a can of garbanzo beans, and a jar of vegetable spice.

Privacy did turn out to be a huge concern. For one thing, even in our less densely populated area, there were lots of people. Sometimes after dark it would have been easier to squat outside to pee, but there was too much potential of being seen from the rigs all around. I wasn’t so much shy as concerned with offending people who didn’t want to accidentally see me with my pants down.

About a week into the gathering, an old guy with a drone made camp across a small wash from us. He flew his drone for hours each day. The buzz the device made was irritating, and friends camped nearby reported the man flew the drone right into or hovered over their camps several times. We assumed the drone had a camera, but we didn’t know if he was taking photos or video and if he was, if he then posted the media online.

One evening as I was cooking dinner, a young man walked into our camp with a recording device. Can I record that? he asked as he pointed his device towards the potatoes frying in the cast iron skillet.

Sure, I said, as long as you don’t record me.

I found out later that he did record me. He recorded me saying don’t record me, and put my face up on the internet saying those very words.

He apparently was recording other women too, voicing over disparaging comments about the women, then sharing those videos on the internet. My friends said he was also recording the seminars and posting them online along with his comments, despite Bob’s request that folks not record and post the seminars. When my friend contacted the RTR organizers to let them know what this guy was doing, she was told don’t let it bother you. I understand if the organizers felt there was nothing they could do to stop the guy (although I don’t know if any of the organizers sought him out to discuss his behavior), but the response of don’t let it bother you seemed to me and my friends as if the concerns weren’t being taken seriously.

One afternoon a woman approached the RTArt Camp table with her camera pointed at us. When Coyote Sue told her not everyone sitting there wanted to be in the photo, the woman went on a diatribe about how we were at a public event and we couldn’t expect privacy. She said at a public event, anyone could legally take our photos. She went on to say she understood our concern because someone had tried to film an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she’d been in at the RTR, and she’d had to shut that down.

The facilitator of the women’s meeting asked that no on record the meeting (video or audio) or take photos of the folks there. Hopefully, no one disregarded her request. She also asked that if and when men approached the group, someone get up and gently explain a women-only meeting was taking place. Instead, the men who approached the group were met with shouts and jeers. They know. They know, women muttered when men approached, believing men where purposely trying to eavesdrop and infringe on our privacy. Maybe that was the case with a few of the handful of men who walked up to our group, but I think most were just clueless. It would have been kinder—and far less disruptive to our group—if, as the facilitator had requested, one woman had quietly stood up, explained to the interloper what was happening, and requested he leave.

The first women’s meeting was huge, by the way. There must have been two or three hundred women there. The facilitator reported it was the first RTR women’s meeting where everyone in attendance did not get the opportunity to speak. Instead, new women introduced themselves, then women with lots of experience introduced themselves.  After an hour of introductions, the large group broke up to give everyone a chance to mingle. I mingled by carrying Lady Nell’s chair back to her camp and then helping some women with disabilities coordinate rides. I’m not very good at mingling with strangers.

So no, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous is not the same. It will never be what it once was. It was a backyard picnic and now [it’s a] state fair, Auntie M said about the RTR. I think the gathering can still be a good place for people to learn how to live nomadically, and—probably more importantly—meet other nomads. For folks who don’t mind crowds and the possibility of having their faces recorded and shared on the internet at every turn, the RTR can be a great place to learn and network. However, I’m pretty sure my RTR days are over.

Adamsville

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Unfortunately, the information about Adamsville on the sign is not easily readable in this photo.

While I was exploring in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens in Quartzsite, AZ;  I ran across an area dedicated to Adamsville.

The Quartzsite Historical Society donated the buildings of Adamsville to the project. The

wooden buildings…had been given to them by the man who had built them, Babe Adams, from Parker.

Four of the fifteen little buildings that make up Adamsville.

There [are] 15 little buildings, including a schoolhouse, church, sawmill, barn and stables, marshall’s office, stage depot, log cabin, house, motel, saloon and house of ill repute, as well as a boot hill and more.

According to the Roadside America website,

Celia’s Rainbow Garden includes “Adamsville,” a miniature village started in 1974 by Babe and Babs Adams at the RV park they lived at in Castle Rock. They donated the village to the Quartzsite Historical Society, who restored it and placed it here in 2001.

I found no indication of who exactly Babe and Babs Adams were or why they liked creating tiny buildings to make up a little Old West town. I’m also not sure if the little town is named for Babe and Babs Adams or if it is supposed to be a replica of Adamsville, which was one of the first settlements in the Arizona Territory.

The aforementioned Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website says the buildings have been restored at least twice. I guess the desert weather is pretty hard on them.

The same website says,

The center bed of the pioneer village had an original wagon from early Quartzsite history added…

This photo shows the “original wagon from early Quartzsite history.”

I was not able to find any information about who the wagon belonged to or what it was used for or in what time period it was used.

I wasn’t too thrilled by Adamsville, but I did spend a few minutes looking at the little buildings making up the town. I have no idea how historically accurate any of the buildings are, but maybe the Quartzsite Historical Society could offer more information to anyone who’s interested.

I took all the photos in this post.

RV Women Memorial

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One of the reasons I really wanted to visit Celia’s Rainbow Gardens was because one of my readers at the RTR told me there was a memorial space out there for van dwelling women. That sounded really cool, so I went looking for the memorial one morning.

I didn’t know where within the gardens the memorial was, so I took my time looking around. Finally, I found what I’m pretty sure my reader was talking about.

Maybe I misunderstood what my reader told me, because the memorial isn’t exactly for van dwelling women. It’s broadly for women who travel in RVs and specifically for women in the RVing Women community.

This photo shows the small plaque on the rock at the back of the circle pictured above. The smaller plaques feature the names of RVing Women who have taken their final journey.

RVing Women is a National network whose members come from across the US and Canada. Established by and for women who are interested in RVing, we have Chapters across the country that offer camping, educational, and social events. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy many indoor and outdoor activities and hobbies.

RVing Women offers support and friendship for women who plan to travel by RV, already own one, have hung up their keys, or are just dreaming about RV possibilities.

A sign in the RVing Women space says this memorial was built in 2011 by the women of Camp Runamucka.

From what I’ve read, members of different RVing Women chapters meet in Quartzsite each winter. They  camp together and attend workshops and socialize. Sometimes they have work days at the RVing Women memorial within Celia’s Rainbow Gardens. It is the RVing Women who maintain this memorial area to honor and remember their RVing sisters who have passed away.

I especially enjoyed looking at the rocks upon which folks have painted different types of RVs.

Throughout the memorial area, there are small plaques with names on them affixed to larger rocks. Each small plaque features the name of an RVing Woman who has passed away. I bet it is comforting to visit the memorial and find the name of an RV-loving friend or sister or daughter or mother or partner who has left this earth. It must be a good place to remember and reflect.

I wish there were a memorial space for van dwelling women. If there is one, I wish someone would tell me about it. If there isn’t, I wish someone would start it.

If any of my readers are interested in joining RVing Women, the group’s  website says the following about their mission, vision, and values:

Mission :

Provide women RVers, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or financial status, a supportive network and the opportunity to enjoy the RVing lifestyle in a safe and knowledgeable manner.

Vision:

A premier organization for women interested in the RVing lifestyle.

We Value:

  • Diversity of our members.
  • Integrity and respect.
  • The abilities, skills and resources of each member.
  • The time and efforts of those who provide leadership and support.
  • Our chapter structure which provides a supportive network.
  • Educational opportunities to promote safe RVing.

 

 

Roadside America (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/12493) gives directions to get to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.

Once inside Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, have a look at all the memorials while looking for the RVing Women space; I don’t know how to explain how to get there.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens

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I heard of Celia’s Rainbow Gardens after my first trip to Quartzsite, AZ for the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Someone else who’d been at the RTR wrote about the gardens on her blog, and I was sorry I’d missed them. But I missed the gardens again both times I went through Quartzsite on my way to California, and I somehow managed to not make it out there when I was in town for the 2016 RTR. I vowed I would go to the gardens in 2017, and I did.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, located in the Quartzsite Town Park encompass 8 acres of the 40 acre park. The gardens were inspired by the dreams of Celia Winer, an 8-year old girl whose goal in life was to make the world a better place.

The Roadside America website says,

One of the “memorials to dead people” found in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.

Celia was not yet nine years old when she died in 1995. The town, assisted by local RV’ers, built a garden of rocks in her memory that continues to grow with memorials to dead people.

As someone who likes cemeteries  I enjoyed walking around and looking at the memorials in the gardens. Many snowbirds come to Quartzsite year after year. Many of these folks never know each other in their hometowns or even their home states. When a member of a Quartzsite snowbird community dies, it must be nice for the survivors to have a place in the town where the friendship thrived to pay their respects and remember their friends.

There are more than just “memorials to dead people” in the gardens, and it’s not just a “garden of rocks either.” It’s a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants. The aforementioned Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website says “[a]ll plants, trees, cacti etc. will eventually have identification markers…”

There’s an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens. This area is called The Hero’s Bell Garden. An article called “Vets Remembered Inside the Garden

archway [is] made of telephone poles with a cross beam on which two huge iron bells [are] suspended. These bells can be rung during special services.

On the Celia’s Rainbow Gardens website, there is a map with information describing many of the areas of the gardens. Near the front of the gardens is

Celia’s Oasis—A special area in memory of Celia and other children
who are remembered…It [is] surrounded by a low wall with the handprint bricks made by the children Celia went to school with.

There’s a palm tree plaza where

[t]he large palm [sic] in this semi-circle were donated by Main Event owners Howard and Marilyn Armstrong, and were planted by his crew.

There are benches in this area and throughout the park so visitors have places to sit and reflect, pray, or meditate.

There’s also an area with a

mining equipment display donated by BLM, showing some of the early equipment used in the mines in this area.

Of course, nothing in Quartzsite which might draw visitors from out of the area is complete without at least one reference to a camel, so there is a camel silhouette in this area too.

Celia’s Rainbow Gardens offer folks the opportunity of some quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of Quartzsite commerce. However, even in January, the sun was strong and I got warm pretty quickly. The gardens are nice to visit, but as when you do anything in Quartzsite, even in the winter, bring a hat and some sunscreen and a bottle of water.

The Roadside America website gives directions to get to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Fruit Squish ‘Ems!

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Sure, I accept food from food banks. I live my life below the poverty level, so I supplement my diet by frequenting food pantries when I can.

One of the services offered by the Isaiah 58 Project in Quartzsite, AZ is a free bag of food once a week. I partook of their offerings twice while I was in the town last January.

While getting free food is always awesome, what I like best is getting delicious free food I normally wouldn’t buy. I was pretty excited to find Fruit Squish ‘Ems! in my food bag. I have to admit, I’d never even heard of Fruit Squish ‘Ems! but what could be bad about a squeezable fruit pouch?

I’m not a stickler for expiration dates. Usually I don’t even check. Those dates are typically “best by” dates anyway. Most processed and packaged food is so full of preservatives, it would take a LONG time to go bad. Heck, I even buy “expired” food, as long as it’s deeply discounted.

I’m not sure why I even looked for an expiration date. Maybe I did it because I’d been shopping at one of Quartzsite’s temporary scratch-and-dent grocery stores and had gotten in the habit of making sure items I wanted to buy weren’t too old. Maybe my guardian angel told me to do it. In any case, I did look for a date and found it: June 2014. I received the Squish ‘Ems! in January 2017, meaning their “best buy” date had come and gone over two and a half years before.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that date made me a little nervous.

Sure, there was a time when the date wouldn’t have even made me blink, but I’m older now, and a little wiser, I hope.

My sibling has a Mormon friend. The Mormon friend is into food storage. The friend told my sibling that when it comes to wet and dry food, it’s much easier to tell if dry food has gone bad. The wetness of the Fruit Squish ‘Ems! had me a little worried.

(While writing this post, I did a Google search on wet vs. dry food going bad. I found nothing to indicate the Mormon friend is correct. I did, however, find an informative article about food spoilage on the Business Insider website. The article by is called “Expiration dates are bogus — here’s the best way to tell if a food’s gone bad” and covers bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, and more.)

I wondered if maybe I was just being a wimp. Was squished fruit that had “expired” over two years ago likely to be spoiled? Would it really be “bad,” or just not “best”? Might it make me sick?

I decided to ask for the opinion of my soon-to-be-traveling companion, the man I’d been spending a lot of time with. He’s been a traveler and dumpster diver for the better part of his 46 years. I knew he’d eaten food in a variety of expired and less-than-best states. If he said he thought it would be alright, I’d quit worrying and eat the stuff.

I showed him the “best by” date on the package. I asked him what he thought. He immediately gave me a resounding NO! We did not need to eat that stuff, he told me. I was relieved. He’d validated my fears. If he thought eating the fruit was a bad idea, it was easy for me to go along with him.

I don’t blame the food bank for giving such wildly out-of-date food. I’m sure the pantry gets a lot of donations, and in the haste to get the food to the people, “best by” dates are sometimes overlooked.

I don’t even blame the folks who donated the out-of-date Fruit Squish ‘Ems! They were only trying to help.

I don’t feel the need to blame anyone, but I’m glad I took it upon myself to check the date. Our trip could have been decidedly awful had we sucked down bad Squish ‘Ems!

I took the photos in this post.

The Big Tent, 2016

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I realized I never shared my experiences of the 2016 Big Tent in Quartzsite, AZ. Today I will remedy that situation.

I wrote about the history of the Big Tent last year, so anyone who doesn’t know what it the world I’m talking about, you can read all about it here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/02/the-big-tent/. In brief, the Big Tent is shorthand for the The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. It’s literally a big tent full of booths for businesses trying to sell their wares to RVers who’ve come to town from around the country. Imagine the hawkers pushing gadgets at a state fair alongside companies catering to the wants and needs of the RV crowd; that’s the Big Tent.

In 2016, I did not show up at the Big Tent on opening day. There was no need for that. I wasn’t looking for a summer job, and I wanted to avoid filling the van with unnecessary items, even if they were freebies. I believe I went on the Wednesday after opening day, on my last day in Quartzsite.

Again, no one was being let in before the official opening time of 9am. I milled about outside the north entrance with the other early birds. While I was waiting, I got a text from my friend Tina who was at the Big Tent to look for a job. She met me at the north entrance, and we walked in together at nine on the dot.

There weren’t very many people browsing through the tent that day, so there was plenty of elbow room.

We hadn’t gotten past very many booths when  a guy working for Direct TV tried to waylay us. Who provides cable in your home? the guy asked. Oh, I said casually, I don’t have a home. Tina snickered and the guy was quietly confused just long enough for us to escape.

The next guy who tried to interrupt our rambling was in a booth with hair-salon chairs. He called out aggressively, Ladies, what appliances do you use to style your hair? I told him, I don’t style my hair. It does whatever it wants. He didn’t know what to say to that, and we walked on.

One good-looking young East Indian man with a British accent drew me right into his booth. It was a large booth, and there were several people in it trying to sell the product, reusable heating pads. The pads were pretty cool There was a metal disc in them and when the disc was clicked, the goo inside the pad got hot. The pads could also be used cold by placing them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The young man was trying REALLY hard to sell the product to me. I finally had to tell him I wasn’t going to buy anything, but said he was doing a great job. We sort of squeezed each other’s hand in farewell, which made me a little giddy.

I got excited when I saw a sign with my name on it. Well, it was sort of my name. When I asked the man standing IMG_4521behind the table if I could take a photo of the sign, he insisted on putting the product beside it. Well, ok. I tried to explain to him that my name is Blaize, and I like to take photos of signs with my name on it. He only seemed concerned with showing off the product, which I guess makes sense because it’s his job to sell the stuff. I know nothing about the quality of Micro-Blaze, so I cannot recommend it. However, readers, you now know it exists.

Just down from the Micro-Blaze booth, I saw the salesman I’d been thinking about all year, the man selling RV bedding. This is what I wrote about him last year:

…the funniest thing I saw in a booth was a man lying in a bed on a platform a couple of feet off the floor. He was selling some special RV bedding, and he was demonstrating this bedding by lying in a bed. The big come-on with this bedding is that one wouldn’t have to make the bed if one had this bedding. Basically, the bedding was a double sleeping bag placed on top of a mattress. There was no tucking of sheets and blankets because this item was a blanket pouch. Is making an RV bed so difficult that people would rather sleep in a double sleeping bag? In any case, whenever I saw this grown man lying down in bed while trying to convince people to buy his wares, it cracked me up.

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This the sad sounding RV bedding salesman (identifying features removed). Sometimes when I stay in bed for days at a time, I feel depressed. Maybe this guy really needed to get out in the sunshine.

In 2015, I sadly had no camera to take a photo of the salesman and his wares, but in 2016, I was prepared. I walked up to the man and said hi. He said hi to me and started telling me about his special sheets. He sounded super sad. He sounded like a robotic recording. He sounded like a super sad robotic recording. The way he gave his speech about his special RV bedding did not make me want to buy his product. The way he gave his speech almost made me want to cry. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or if he was just generally tired, but his enthusiasm level was way low. I asked him if I could take his photo, and he said yes.

This guy, even though he seemed really down, was the high point of the Big Tent for me. I walked around after I talked to him, got a bright yellow (and cheaply made) tote bag from KOA and played a sort of slot machine game with the Flo lookalikes at the Progressive, but nothing made me happier than finally getting a photo of this guy.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Pancakes!

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One of my favorite things about Quartzsite in the winter is eating free pancakes at La Mesa RV. IMG_4453

La Mesa RV (at the corner of Main and Central [Highway 95] in Quartzsite) is in the business of selling motorhomes and 5th wheels. A marketing ploy the company uses to get people on their Quartzsite lot is a free pancake breakfast six mornings a week (Monday through Saturday) from 8am to 10am.

Breakfast is held in the Silver Buckle Customer Oasis, IMG_4402a large room filled with tables. The building was once a bar (I was told by an old-timer), which explains why there are multiple pairs of (definitely used) cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling as decoration. Folks line up at the counter along the back wall to pick up their breakfast.

On most days, folks receive two large flapjacks on their plate. Sometimes real creamery butter is served on the side, still wrapped in gold foil. Other days a blob of buttery spread (ingredients unknown) is plopped right on top of the pancakes. Plastic cutlery, napkins, and syrup (regular and sugar free) are on the condiment island at the end of the serving line.

Sometimes on Friday, biscuits and gravy are on the menu instead of pancakes. By biscuits, I mean each person receives one biscuit cut in half and covered in white gravy in which tidbits of sausage float. I think this deviation from pancakes is supposed to be a treat, but one biscuit with some flour and water gravy and a few bits of sausage does not fill me up nearly as much as two almost-plate-sized flapjacks.

Coffee is available. It’s a weak coffee, so weak in fact I can have one cup of it and not feel jittery. Cream and sugar are available in small paper packets, and I always manage to leave white dust on my table. Orange and apple juice are sometimes available, and there’s drinking water in a big orange cooler.

The first time one arrives for breakfast, one must go up to the counter made from the front end of a giant motorhome, and fill out a card. The card has blanks for one’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. (I’ve never provided my phone number or email address and was not challenged about my omissions.) At the bottom of the card, one is asked about the rig one currently drives. I was honest and wrote in ’92 Chevy G20. After the blanks are filled in, a woman working the counter writes one’s name on a name tag and hands it over. The  name tag lasts all season, and one is required to wear it whenever one wants to eat breakfast. IMG_4469

That’s the extent of the hoops one must jump through to get to the pancakes. No salesperson ever approached me to talk about any possible RV purchase, which is good, since the lowest price I’ve seen on any RV there was $17,000. Most RVs at La Mesa are upwards of $25,000, and some cost as much as $250,000! If I had to prove my ability to purchase the merchandise, I’d never be allowed near the pancakes.

The only sort of marketing involved with breakfast is being exposed to a video loop of La Mesa propaganda broadcast on the televisions scattered throughout the room. The videos include testimonials from satisfied Las Mesa customers, RVing tips (like leaving solid air fresheners throughout a motorhome when not in use so the RV smells fresh the next time it’s entered), and an educational piece detailing the hand signals one should use when helping an RV driver back up. I can honestly say that not once have any of these videos made me consider buying an RV from La Mesa.

Lots of people show up for the free La Mesa breakfast, and most of them are not from the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. At 44, I was usually one of the youngest people in the room (although as the winter population of Quartzsite expanded, I saw more people who seemed to be the kids and grandkids of the older demographic). One day I caught a quite elderly man looking at me as if I were a teenager!

When I’m in Quartzsite, I don’t go into town for the free breakfast every day. I figure I’m not saving any money if I use gas to drive the seven or so miles round trip for free pancakes. But when I’m going into town anyway, I arrive early so I can be one of the first people in line for breakfast at La Mesa.

La Mesa has locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Florida. IMG_4451(I don’t know if the other locations give out free food.) When I’m driving along and see the sign at one of the other locations or if I see a La Mesa commercial on TV, I shout, Pancakes! I’m not sure that’s the association for which the owners of La Mesa RV were hoping.

I took all the photos in this post.

Naked Guy

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Last year when doing research on Quartzsite after I’d left, I saw a few references to a nudist who ran a bookstore. After thinking, oh, I missed that, I didn’t give it much thought.

When I met Iggy on Facebook and we compared our 2015 Quartzsite and RTR experiences, he asked if I’d been to the bookstore with the naked guy. When I said I hadn’t, he told me that during his visit, the owner wore nothing but a sock (and he wasn’t talking about on the guy’s foot). Iggy said the guy sometimes wore a jacket if the temperature dropped.

The naked guy in the bookstore became a joke between us (along with the English dish called spotted dick, but that’s a whole other story). Once I got to Quartzsite, I kept saying I was going to go to the bookstore and see the naked guy, but I kept leaving town before I made it out that way. Finally on the last Saturday of the RTR, I paid my visit.

The name of the store is Reader’s Oasis Books,IMG_4459 and it’s located at 690 East Main Street in Quartzsite. The naked guy is owner Paul Winer.

I did see Paul when I walked into the shop. He was wearing big glasses, a jacket, and a black…what to call it? Thong? Pouch? Penis sheath? Banana hammock? What I’m trying to say is that his penis and testicles were covered, but not much else was. When he turned around (yes, I looked), I saw his butt cheeks and a strip of cloth running up his butt crack. (Wedgie city!) It really wasn’t all that shocking. However, I was expecting to see a naked guy there. I’m sure it would have been more shocking had I stumbled across a nearly naked man in a bookstore.

The bookstore is incredible! It is big and stuffed full of books and handwritten signs and pictures and shiny rocks and memorabilia. There is a lot to see in that store. The selection is broad, from 3 for $1 romance novels to military history to old-school children’s books to cookbooks to books on religion to books pertaining specifically to the Southwest. The bookmark I ended up buying (featuring a photo of Paul with his thumb up and sporting a big beard and shades; wearing multiple turquoise necklaces, a straw hat, and a bit of cloth over his privates) boasts over 180,000 titles, and I believe it.

One unusual thing I noticed (in addition to the nearly naked proprietor) was that the majority of the books in the place are tightly wrapped in plastic. Why? One person (unaffiliated with the bookstore) I talked to thought maybe it was to keep dust out of the books. Personally, I’d be hesitant to buy a used book I couldn’t check for mold, water damage, or loose binding.

I also noticed that Paul seems to play up the wackiness of a naked guy in a bookstore. There were photos of him throughout the store, many featuring different penis coverings. I guess if there’s a naked guy in a bookstore anyway, it’s a good way to draw people in. If you’ve got a naked guy around, you might as well flaunt him.

It’s easy to laugh at a naked guy selling books, but in the photos of him scattered through the store, Paul looks like a happy man. If his dream was to be a nudist in the desert and sell books, he’s quite a success. There aren’t too many places where a man can wear a thong in January and not (literally) freeze his balls off. As a nudist in Quartzsite, Paul pretty much has it made.

I didn’t buy any books at Reader’s Oasis. I had plenty of books in the van, and I’m being careful about the money I’m spending. But I did buy two Reader’s Oasis bookmarks. One is for me so I can hang it in the big collage in my van. The other is for Iggy because I knew he wouldn’t buy one for himself.

I took the photo in this post.

Thrift Stores in Quartzsite, AZ

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In addition to all the flea markets in Quartzsite, another source for used items is the town’s thrift stores. I’ve visited three thrift stores in Quartzsite, and if there are others, I don’t know about them.

The Salvations Army Thrift Store is located at 101 Moon Mountain Road. IMG_4528From Main Street, turn north onto Moon Mountain Road. The Salvation Army store will be on the east side of the street, about half a block down. The thrift shop is across the street from the Isaiah 58 Project compound. Parking is in the gravel lot in front of the store.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store has a small selection of mass-market paperbacks; I think they sell three for $1. The store also has cheap VHS tapes and a few CDs. There is usually a large selection of housewares, pots and pan, plates and glasses. The selection of linens and pillows tends to be small, and the items seem well used. The shoes available also tend to be well used, and I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size. I’ve found a few fun things in the toy department, like a couple of small troll dolls (two for 50 cents) to send to my rock guy. IMG_4671In 2015, I got great deals on yarn at this store, but in 2016, the prices were higher for boring colors.

Prices are decent here. Most clothing costs a dollar or two per piece. Many things in the housewares section are 50 cents to $1. (Higher end items are more expensive; I once saw a cast iron Dutch oven there with a sticker price of $30.) Small toys are very inexpensive, as are greeting cards.

IMG_4527I definitely suggest the Salvation Army store as a place to look for needed items before buying new, and it’s fun to browse here even if nothing specific is needed.

The Quartzsite Community Thrift Store (7 Showplace Lane) is located near the end of the street that runs along the side of Silly Al’s pizza place. The parking lot is also gravel and in front of the store. The parking area is not as big as the one at the Salvation Army store, but there may be more parking in the back.IMG_4529

There is usually a stack of free books under a covered area on the east side of the parking lot, but I’ve never found anything I wanted to read there. The store offers some higher-end decorative items near the front of the store. The price of women’s clothing seems to start around $2; I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size either. I have found good prices on yarn at this store—50 cents to $1 a roll or for several smaller bits of yarn bagged together—but the selection was better in 2015. There’s a decent-sized selection of books in the second room, but I haven’t seen much there that I’d be interested in reading. Also in the second room are mostly inexpensive housewares and a small selection of well-used linens.

IMG_4456The Animal Refuge Thrift Store is on the other side of town, east of Central (Highway 95), on the south side of Main Street.

When I visited this shop in 2015, it was cluttered and uninviting. In 2016, the store was filled with only the best merchandise, and the higher prices reflected the nicer inventory. As I was not looking for higher-end but more expensive items, I was not really impressed with anything in the store. I looked around quickly, realized what was up, and left.

I’ve got no problem with a resale store specializing in higher-end and pricier merchandise. What I do have a problem with is when such stores call themselves thrift. To me, thrift means inexpensive. Why not call themselves upscale resale or high-end used or gently-used boutique? I guess they figure thrift draws people in, and they hope folks in a buying frenzy will find something to purchase.

I do have to give the workers at the Animal Refuge Thrift Store props for keeping the store clean with uncluttered, neatly arranged merchandise. The store definitely looked nice. Also, the woman working when I went in was friendly and made sure I knew the proceeds from the store goes to help animals.

Since I don’t really need anything these days, and I’m trying to buy less, I might not be the best person to review thrift stores. Still, I like to browse and see what’s available. I’m always looking for something better than what I have that’s selling at a good price. When I’m in Quartzsite, I like to see what’s happening at the thrift shops.

I took all photos in this post.

Quartzsite, Arizona

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Quartzsite is a small Arizona town located at the crossroads of Interstate 10 and Highway 95. The town is 83 miles from Yuma; 125 miles from Phoenix; 296 miles from Tucson; 214 miles from Las Vegas, NV; and 17 miles from the California border. The town sits at an elevation of 813 feet, with the Kofa Mountains to the south.

The population of Quartzsite (as of 2013) is 3,643, but that number swells in the winter, especially in January and February when the town is crowded with flea markets, rock shops, and scratch and dent groceries (over 1,000 vendors each year), most in temporary stores housed in tents. Of course, the shops wouldn’t exist without shoppers. The shoppers are primarily snowbirds who’ve come from colder climes to enjoy Quartzsite’s average temperature of 73 degrees (Fahrenheit). Most of the snowbirds are RVers (many in enormous motorhomes) who camp in one of the 60 RV parks in and around town or on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, in either Long Term Visitor areas or 14-day free camping areas.

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The shopping in Quartzsite is impressive. The United Nations of vendors sell out of temporary structures that are nothing more than tents, which make me imagine Middle Eastern bazaars and the marketplaces in villages of the European Middle Ages. If you want to buy shiny rocks, Quartzsite is the place to shop. If you want to buy an RV or accessories for the one you already have, Quartzsite is the place to shop. If you want great bargains on packaged food and don’t mind a dented can or a recently expired “sell by” date, Quartzsite is the place to shop. If you want to buy inexpensive tools, Quartzsite is the place to shop. If you believe one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, the Quartzsite is the place to shop. If you don’t know what you want, but sure enjoy looking, Quartzsite is the place to shop.

If, on the other hand, you want to use free high speed internet, Quartzsite is really not the place to be. I don’t think the Quartzsite WiFi infrastructure is up to the number of people downloading, uploading, streaming, and trying to check weather and email. In 2015, I had luck using the free WiFi at Burger King, but the one day I sat there in 2016, I was in a constant flux of loosing my connection and logging back on. I couldn’t even get a post up on Facebook. One day I had luck at the Pilot, but the next day I couldn’t get my blog to load. I had better luck at the Carl’s Jr. one afternoon, but I wouldn’t say the WiFi was fast. It took me six hours to get two blog posts scheduled (even though both were already written and one was already a Word document I only had to cut and paste) because it took an eternity for each photo to upload. At least there was an electrical outlet to plug into.

The WiFi at the Quartzsite public library was not any better than the WiFi at the fast food restaurants in town. The library consists of a couple of small, crowded rooms in the Municipal Center at 465 Plymouth Road. IMG_4524The library is crammed with books, and nonresidents can even borrow them. The library also houses several public access computers which seem to always be in use. I tried utilizing the library’s free WiFi on my laptop, and the service was super slow and frustrating. Don’t expect to charge electronics in the library. When I asked a library worker about electrical outlets, she said there were none. When my friend found one hidden behind the books and plugged in his phone, he was chastised by a worker for using the library’s electricity.

For folks looking for shopping that doesn’t involve flea markets and shiny rocks, there are several thrift stores in Quartzsite. (I’ll post some info about Quartzsite thrift stores soon.) For book lovers, Reader’s Oasis Books is not to be missed.

For folks who are all shopped out, there are some other cool things to see in or near Quartzsite.

Said to be the most visited location in Quartzsite, the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery is an interesting place to visit, especially for history buffs. (Read about my visit to the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/20/hi-jollys-tomb/.)

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In 2015 I visited the Tyson Well Stage Station Museum. Admission was free, so it was worth the visit, but I can’t say I was impressed by the exhibits. I thought there was too much stuff crammed into too small a space. Many pieces were on display with no explanation as to why they were there. Of course, the museum could have changed for the better in a year, so I urge history buffs to check out the museum at 161 West Main Street.

Other places I haven’t visited by look interesting include the Great Tree, a 1,050 year old ironwood tree that’s witnessed the entire 100+ years of Arizona statehood; Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, located at the north end of the Quartzsite town Park on Plymouth Road; and the Quartzsite Rock Alignment and the Bouse Fisherman, a 30-foot-long intaglio.

Maybe next year!

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Thanks to the 2015-2016 Quartzsite Vistor Guide (www.quartzsitevisitorguide.com) published by Pilot Rock Publishing for many of the facts in this post.

I took all the photos in this post.