Tag Archives: Quartzsite

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.

 

Report on the 2016 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

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I recently attended the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) in Quartzsite, Arizona. If you don’t know the first thing about the RTR, you can find more information at http://www.cheaprvliving.com/gatherings/. You can also read my posts about my experience at the 2015 RTR here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.

The 2016 RTR ran January 5-19, and was once again held at Scaddan Wash. Everyone agreed there were more people at the 2016 RTR than ever before, but I haven’t heard an official count of attendees.

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This is what the Scaddan Wash area looks like.

In 2015, I parked very close to the main fire pit/meeting area, but this year I made my home near far end of the road. Being so far back forced me to walk more to attend workshops and visit friends.

The weather was cold and rainy the first few days of the RTR. I drove in the rain to get to Quartzsite, and I enjoyed hearing raindrops on the roof of my van the first couple nights in the desert. Although the low temperatures were cold for Quartzsite, they still beat the lows in most of the U.S. Many folks I know used their Mr. Buddy heaters, but I never even pulled mine out of its tub.

On most days of the gathering, at least one educational seminar was offered. Seminar topics included the following: gold prospecting; work camping; setting up and using solar power; gadgets; lithium batteries; cooking methods; making a dream catcher; traveling to Algadones and Baja, Mexico; safety in the desert; boondocking; nature photography; car dwelling; and receiving mail, health insurance, and residency.

I only went to two seminars this year, the welcome seminar on the first morning and the seminar about living in a car. Most of the seminars were repeats from last year, and I either wasn’t interested in the topic or felt I already got the information I needed from the seminar when I sat through it before. Most mornings I didn’t want to carry my chair all the way to the meeting area and sit in the sun for a couple of hours.

I did attend the two women’s meetings at the RTR. Each meeting had about 30 women in attendance, although it wasn’t all the same women both times; many women only attended one of the meetings. I did not facilitate the women’s meetings this year, which was something of a relief. I won’t be giving a full report of the meetings, as both consisted mostly of introductions. In the second meeting, women shared information in answer to specific questions such as How do I get a job work camping? How do I eliminate bodily wastes while living in my car/van/RV? How do I get electricity in my van? What do folks drive and what kind of gas mileage does that vehicle get?

My favorite RTR activities were again the group meals. As we did last year, everyone who wanted to participate contributed canned or fresh ingredients to be added to chili one week and soup the next.

Once again, the Chef and his crew turned the contributions into two delicious meals. At the chili feed, there were three offerings: vegan chili (which I ate and can say was Yum!), chili that was a little hot, and chili that was a little hotter. Folks also contributed homemade cornbread; crackers; and toppings like cheese, onions, and cilantro.

At the soup dinner, the soups offered included a vegetarian minestrone-type soup, chicken noodle, beef barley, and one with spicy sausage. Crackers were also provided, as well as dessert! I was in line with Lady Nell and Mr. Jay, and they didn’t care for dessert, so they gave me their share of the sweets. I ended up with a no-bake cookie, a chocolate chip cookie, and some sort of chocolate chip/coconut bar, all homemade. Super yum!

The third group meal was a potato bake hosted by the same couple who made it happen last year. The potatoes (180 of them!) were baked in the coals of the main fire pit, and folks contributed just about any topping one could imagine putting on top of a baked potato.

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Cacti and mountains surrounding the RTR 2016.

I was a lot more social in 2016 than I was in 2015. Being social was easier for me this year because I already knew folks. I often have difficulty approaching a stranger and striking up a conversation, but I can usually think if something to say to someone I’ve already met. In addition to reconnecting with people I met last year, I actually made several new friends, at least two of whom I think I will stay in frequent contact.

My personal highpoints of the gathering happened when I met people who told me they read my blog. I have readers!

Mr. Jay was the first person I spoke to at the RTR. When I knocked on the rig to find out if Lady Nell were home, Mr. Jay answered the door. After a few moments of chit chat, he asked kindly, And you are? I said, I’m Blaize. His face broke into a smile and he said, Oh! I read you! It was a moment of great happiness for me.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

Hi Jolly Cemetery

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Welcome sign in Quartzsite, Arizona. Why are there camels on it?

Did you know there were once camels in Arizona? I didn’t know until I spent some time in Quartzsite.

According to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11284

In 1856, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (later President of the Confederacy) had a novel idea: transporting freight and people across the desert Southwest on camels. He eventually imported over 70 of the beasts. Along with the first batch came a Syrian caretaker, Hadji Ali. His American masters called him Hi Jolly.

The locals were so fond of him that, after he died, they spent several weeks building Hi Jolly a special pyramid tomb, made of multicolored petrified wood and quartz. It was dedicated on Jan. 4, 1903. Thirty-three years later the Arizona Highway Department came along and cemented a bronze plaque to the tomb, telling Hi Jolly’s story, and topped the pyramid with a metal camel silhouette.

In those long-ago days the Quartzsite cemetery was remote, just bare ground and a few scrubby sagebrush at the edge of an obscure desert outpost. Now you have to drive through the very busy Quartzsite flea market to get to Hi Jolly. Still, his tomb is the biggest thing back in its tiny patch of desert solitude.

The camels, by the way, outlived Jefferson Davis, Hi Jolly, and even the cementing of the plaque. Their last reported sighting was in 1942.

On my way to California, I stopped in Quartzsite and visited the Hi Jolly cemetery again. This time it wasn’t so hot, so I stayed longer. Also, this time I had a functioning camera, so I took some photos.
This is Hi Jolly's tomb.

This is Hi Jolly’s tomb.

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Hi Jolly is not the only person buried in this cemetery. Many of the graves are very old, the final resting place of many Quartzsite pioneers. During my first visit I picked up a booklet with a map of the graveyard. The booklet (found in a nearby informational kiosk) also offers biographical information about many of the people buried in the cemetery. One day I hope to go back to the cemetery when I have a lot of time and a hat and a bottle of water and the booklet so I can read about the old-timers buried there.

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Many of the graves in the cemetery are decorated with local stones.

Many of the graves in the cemetery are decorated with local stones.

I think that's petrified wood all around the tomb stone.

I think that’s petrified wood all around the  headstone.

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What a wonderful inscription! “A wise and loyal friend.” I hope I am remembered that way.

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I don’t know the story behind this one.

This is one of the old grave sites.

This is one of the old grave sites.

I'd never seen a grave with a head stone and a foot stone.

I’d never seen a grave with a headstone and a footstone.

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I think this plaque set in the ground is related to the cemetery being on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also according to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11284, to get to Hi Jolly Cemetery from
I-10 exit 17. North side, about a half-mile east on Business 10/W. Main St. Turn north at the Hi Jolly Tomb sign and drive through the flea market to get to the town cemetery and the monument.
I took all of the photos in this post.

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/.

The Big Tent

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The Big Tent is what folks call it, but the actual name of the event is The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. It’s been held every year since 1984, although the location within the town has changed several times. People travel to Quartzsite in their RVs (motorhomes, vans, campers, fifth wheels, etc.) from all over the country to enjoy the warm Arizona weather and see what’s new in the Big Tent.

Go here http://www.quartzsitervshow.com/about/ to learn more about the history of The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, which has grown from 60 exhibitors and a small tent to this year’s 69,000 square foot fully carpeted indoor exhibit area at 700 South Central Blvd.

This year the Big Tent was open January 17th through 25th. I visited it on the Saturday opening day and on Tuesday the 20th.

I went to the Big Tent the first time because I was trying to get a job as a camp host. I’d been told that the best camp host company to work for would have a booth at the Big Tent. I was told I should go there to meet the boss in charge of staffing, that I’d be interviewed and probably hired on the spot.

It didn’t happen quite that way.

The big boss was there, but when I walked up, he was busy and barely spoke to me. He wasn’t unfriendly, just busy. I talked to another man who works for the company who told me to go to their website, see what jobs were available, fill out an online application, and wait for a phone interview. Why had I come to the Big Tent on opening day?

I’d arrived at the tent at about ten minutes early, but nobody was getting in early that morning. The line started moving at exactly nine o’clock.

By the time I got inside, the place was already packed.

I wasn’t surprised to see RV park booths, RV insurance booths, booths staffed with folks trying to convince people to drive their RVs north to Canada and south to Mexico. I wasn’t surprised to see an Arizona State Parks booth, a KOA campground booth, and a Good Sam’s Club booth.

Several casinos had booths, complete with wheels to spin. Spin the wheel, win a prize, but not until one coughed up one’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. I tried to win several times (and won nothing more memorable than multiple decks of cards), so I’m sure my mailbox will shortly be full of casino propaganda.

Several booths were dedicated to recruiting work campers. One of those booths belonged to Workamper News (http://www.workamper.com), the website to check out (I was told at the RTR) to get hooked up with work camping opportunities. Amazon.com was present, recruiting for its CamperForce. The sugar beet harvest people (http://www.sugarbeetharvest.com) were there too, and I had a nice talk with a nice midwestern man, but quickly realized that sugar beet harvest work is too strenuous for me. Several companies looking to hire camp hosts were also in the Big Tent.

I was surprised to see multiple booths selling pillows. I understand that RVers use pillows. But why would someone buy pillows at at sports, vacation, and RV show? Wal-Mart sells pillows. Kmart sells pillows. Sears and JCPenney and the freakin’ Family Dollar probably sell pillows. Pillows can be ordered from Amazon.com. Why were these RV show pillows so special? I don’t know because I did not stop at any of the many pillow booths and discuss the desirability of their pillows.

On a related note, 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.

I was also surprised to see people in so many booths trying to sell kitchen gadgets. I do understand that RVs have kitchens, which might lead RVers to buy kitchen gadgets, but it seems like those items too are available in just about any regular store. Do people get caught up in the frenzy of shopping at the Big Tent, only to wake up to reality later and find their yellow freebie KOA tote bag full of silicone bowl covers and long skinny plastic chip clips?

The least explicable booths were those selling makeup, hand creme, and jewelry (especially an “ion” bracelet some lady tried to slip on my wrist). I didn’t stop at any of those booths, but from my cruise past, I didn’t see anything that looked unique or revolutionary.

My favorite booth was the one run by Minute Rice. There was a wheel to spin and prizes to win. When I spun the wheel, it stopped on “emery board.” Boring! However, the nice ladies were also giving out two-packs of the precooked, microwaveable rice. There was even a choice: white, brown, or jasmine. And they didn’t want my email address!

I know I mentioned it was crowded in that tent, but let me just say again, the place was packed. At one point, the crowd in the aisle was at a complete standstill. There was a tall young man next to me, and I asked him what he saw up ahead. He said it was just a bunch of people standing still. As soon as I made it out of that quagmire (without ever seeing a reason for movement to have ceased), I ducked out of the next exit door into the sunshine. There were more booths on the outside around the perimeter of the Big Tent, but nothing held my attention long enough for me to stop.

When I went back on Tuesday (because I was in the area to purchase items from several of the booths in the Tyson Wells shopping area), the Big Tent was mostly the same. The Minute Rice ladies were gone (they must have run out of rice), but I made up for it by playing a couple of fun and silly games at the Progressive booth, where the workers were a bunch of young gals dressed like Flo! There (thankfully) weren’t as many people in the Big Tent, so we all had a little more elbow room.

The Big Tent (like Mardi Gras) is definitely something to see once, if one is in the right place at the right time. I’m not sure I would go there again. If I did go there again, I probably would not do so on opening day. And hopefully I’d own a working camera so I could get a photo of that man in the bed.

In 2016, I got a photo of the man in bed! Go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/02/the-big-tent-2016/ to see it.

 

The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: Week 1

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

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

Rendezvous
a place appointed for assembling or meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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