When I first talked to Sweet L, he told me that he and the crew (Mr. Carolina. Robbie, and the Fighting Couple), as well as Buttons and his mom and her guy were heading to a Rainbow Gathering in Nevada. Buttons (who was in this mid-30s) was riding with his mom (who was in her late 50s) and her guy (who was in his mid-40s) in a car that could seat one more person, but the other folks had no ride. I told Sweet L they could ride with me until I got to my stopping point.
I found the group the next morning, and we loaded up. Robbie got in the car with Buttons and his family, which meant I had Mr. Carolina riding shotgun, Sweet L and Mr. Fighting Couple in the middle seats, Ms. Fighting Couple and all the packs on my bed, and the Fighting Couple’s two dogs on the floor.
Fast-forward through me having so much fun I decided to go to the Rainbow Gathering too and offered my van as our means of transportation. Fast-forward through (literal) rainbows and hot springs, sign flying and gas jugging, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, and Robbie moving into the van in Flagstaff. Fast-forward through all of that, and we were in the small Nevada town closest to the area where the Rainbow Gathering was to be held.
Sweet L was doing most of the internet research to get us to the gathering. He wanted to be at the gathering because he had been told it would be a jumping off point for folks traveling to Guatemala for an intergalactic Rainbow Gathering peaking on 12-21-12. Buttons was talking about caravans driving through drug-runner tunnels stretching across the U.S./Mexico border and on to Guatemala. This Nevada Rainbow Gathering was supposed to be the place to meet the people making such transportation happen.
Sweet L had been in touch with one of the gathering’s focalizers, a man staying in a small, locally owned motel. The man invited us to come to his motel room, take showers, and hang out.
The man—George, I’ll call him—was probably between 55 and 65 years old and friendly enough. I was glad for the chance to take a shower and took him up on his offer right away. Robbie and Sweet L jumped at the chance to use his laptop, as they were trying to figure out how to get to Guatemala if the drug tunnel plan didn’t work out.
When I got out of the shower, I started picking up clues that George was a little strange and there were some problems with the Rainbow Gathering. First, although seven adults (and two dogs) were crammed into a small motel room, George had the television on with the volume turned up. The TV rendered communication quite difficult. It think it’s rude to have a TV on when folks are visiting, but it seemed strange to have it turned on when we were trying to talk to the guy about a Rainbow Gathering he was helping to organize.
From what Sweet L had said about what he’d read on the internet, I’d understood the Rainbow Gathering was about to begin and ten or so people were already on site. Upon talking to George, we realized the six of us had been counted among the people on site. And the site? It hadn’t been chosen yet! George wanted us to go out scouting for potential locations.
I’ve never been scouting for a Rainbow Gathering site, but I know certain things are desirable, like flat ground, trees, and a source of water. I knew nothing about the Nevada desert. I certainly had no idea where to find trees and water.
While we had food (and toilet paper) to contribute to a gathering, we were by no means prepared to provide for our own six selves (much less anyone who might join us) in the wilderness. We thought we’d be going into a gathering with an infrastructure in place. We’d had no idea we’d be expected to set up the infrastructure of a seed camp.
A few days after the gathering was scheduled to begin, Furthur would be playing in nearby Las Vegas. Those of us traveling in my van had already decided we’d leave the gathering and go to Vegas on the night of the Furthur show. We knew that even if we didn’t get into the show, we could have a lot of fun hanging out. After Furthur, we planned to go back for the duration of the gathering.
When one of us mentioned our plan to George, he said he was going to Vegas for Furthur too. He said he’d planned to pay a shuttle van to drive him to Vegas and back, but said he’d rather ride with us and give us the money. He then said he had a hotel room booked for the night of the show, and all of us could stay with him. I didn’t say it in front of George, but the last thing I wanted to do in Vegas was get stuck in some stranger’s hotel room.
Around 4:30, George got really weird. He said he was going to have to kick us out at five o’clock. He said he didn’t want us to wait until dark to find a place to make our camp. His attitude was strange for a couple of reasons. First, although it was fall, the time hadn’t changed yet, so at five o’clock there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. Second, he didn’t even know how great the kids were at finding places to sleep at night. Third, we were surrounded by public land where we could camp for free.
In the following days, we had much discussion about what we thought had really been going on with George. Why had he really kicked us out at five o’clock? Was he afraid we were going to try to take over his motel room and spend the night there? I thought he had a 5:30 appointment with either a drug dealer or a prostitute and wanted us out of there ahead of time.
As we were gathering our things in preparation for our exit, George pulled out his sleeping bag and said he wanted us to take it with us so it would already be in the van when we gave him the ride to Vegas. By this point I was getting paranoid and was more than half convinced that George had dealings with the FBI and there was a bug or a tracking device in his sleeping bag. I was cool though, and said we really didn’t have room for it in the van. Although the sleeping bag was rolled up quite small, I wasn’t really lying about there being no room for it. Where were we going to fit in a stranger’s (possibly bugged) sleeping bag in a van crowded with six people, all their possessions, jugs of water, two dogs, and only four seat belt? (Sweet L thought George wanted us to take his sleeping bad so we’d be obligated to come back for him later.)
We did find a place to camp well before dark. We also decided a few things. We decided we were not scouting for this sketchy Rainbow Gathering or helping with seed camp. In fact, we decided the Rainbow Gathering sounded as if it had too many problems, and we’d rather stay in Vegas. We also decided George would not be riding with us.
The job of calling George and breaking the news fell to me since I was the van owner. I felt awkward, but not as awkward as I’d have felt being stuck with an unwanted passenger. It was a good thing we hadn’t taken his sleeping bag.
Sometimes I don’t know how much background I need to give in order for a story to make sense. Sometimes I can just start in the middle of everything and tell a story, but sometimes I have to give so much background info that I’m a thousand words in and exhausted by the time I get to the story I want to tell. That’s how I feel about how I met Mr. Carolina and the boys.
It all started with the Grateful Dead. Yes, that’s the place to start.
I was not a Grateful Dead fan when the Grateful Dead actually existed. I guess I’d heard of them in 1987 when “Touch of Grey” hit the charts, and my first true love did put “Sugar Magnolia” on a mix tape when he was trying to woo me in 1992. But I’d gone most of my life not being a Deadhead. Then I met the boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but he was a Deadhead. We listened to the Grateful Dead all the time, and we started seeing a lot of Further, and I became a Deadhead too.
(If you didn’t know, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furthur_%28band%29
Furthur was a rock band founded in 2009 by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. The original lineup also included John Kadlecik of the Dark Star Orchestra on lead guitar, Jeff Chimenti of RatDog on keyboards, Jay Lane of RatDog on percussion, and Joe Russo of the Benevento/Russo Duo on drums. Named after the famous touring bus used by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the 1960s, Furthur was an improvisational jam band that performed music primarily from the extensive Grateful Dead songbook, as well as their own original music and that of several other well-known artists. In addition to the original members (with the exception of Jay Lane, who left the band in March 2010 to rejoin his previous band, Primus), the band’s lineup included backup vocalists Sunshine Becker of the a cappella ensemble SoVoSó and Jeff Pehrson of the folk rock bands Box Set and the Fall Risk.)
When I finally extricated myself from the not-very-nice boyfriend, I thought I had lost Furthur and the Grateful Dead too. I thought that part of my life was over, and I’d never hear those songs again.
I got over that silliness in a couple of months.
I realized the music belonged to me as much as it belonged to anyone else. My not-very-nice boyfriend might have introduced me to that music, but he didn’t own it.
I’ll fast-forward through the part of the story where I was homeless and living in a highway rest area (if you want to read about that, you can go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/11/hummingbird/.) I’ll skip the part where two friends from college who’d heard I’d disappeared found me and offered love and support. (That’s a story for another day.) I’ll go straight to the part where I used the money I’d earned selling hemp jewelry combined with money friends had donated to my cause so I could buy a van to live in and work out of. One week after I’d gotten the van registered and licensed, I was off to the big city where Furthur was playing.
I drove all alone for hours to get there. My new-to-me van didn’t have a working radio, so I had no music to distract me from my thoughts. Was this trip the right thing to do? Would the van make it? What if I ran into my ex-boyfriend there? Would I make enough money selling jewelry to even get into one of the three shows Furthur was doing? Would I make any friends?
I didn’t really expect to make any friends. In real life, I’m shy, and it’s not easy for me to make friends. And if you’ve ever been to Shakedown Street
(the parking lot, or large area, outside os [sic] Grateful Dead or Phish shows where everything from drugs, burritos, tie dyes, incense and clothing were sold. Shakedown was the place where one could chill before or after a show and find whatever it is one was looking for. Most known for it’s [sic] open air drug supermarket where cats would have nitrous oxide tanks in the back of cars and sell balloons of nitrous for $5. also [sic] people would walk around uttering “trips trips” or “kind bud, according to http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shakedown+Street)
or a Rainbow Gathering or a music festival, you know those places are not hotbeds of middle-age, single women.
But I was excited to go, excited to be in the hubub of the parking lot, excited to (hopefully) make it into the show.
The first day on the lot was fun enough. I sold a few things, traded for a few things, gave water to thirsty kids and dogs, and generally hung out. That night I tried to sneak into the outdoor show, but I had no idea what I was doing and ended up surrounded by scratching, jabbing plant matter. As I tried to get out of the mess I was in, a security guy (who was probably young enough to be my kid), heard all the noise I was making and yelled, Get out of the bushes! I yelled back, I’m trying.
After I made it out of the cacti and trees, I sat out in the van until after the show, thinking maybe there would be some hanging out. Of course, the cops ran everyone out of the parking lot after the show, so I drove to the nearest Stuff-Mart and got some sleep.
I returned to the lot early the next day. Not long after I parked, a car full of people pulled in next to the van. More people joined them. Most of the people were young men, although there was an older-than-me woman with them and a man younger than her but older than the rest who seemed to dote on her. They hadn’t been there long when the older man offered me a bottle of water. I took it gratefully.
Several hours later when the late autumn sun was beating down, one of the young men asked me if I wanted some shade. He said they had a tarp and asked if they could stretch it from the car and attach one end to my van. I agreed and helped a little to get the cover in the right place. I didn’t spend much time in the shade, but did have short, pleasant conversations with the various people hanging around.
On Sunday, not long after I arrived in the lot, the folks who’d hung out next to me the day before got there without the car. (I believe they came riding in standing on the running boards of a pickup truck.) I went over to talk with them and we exchanged names. Sweet L admired a copper bracelet I was wearing, and I told him a friend of mine had made it. The dogs of the couple who I later found out spent most their time having whisper fights needed water, so I said we could fill the bowl from my five gallon water jug. One of the young men jumped up to help me. That young man was Mr. Carolina.
Amazon, auto supply stores, or any store with an automotive department. They are easy to install by peeling away paper backing covering the strong adhesive on the non-mirror side. Press the blind spot mirrors to a clean (cleanliness is crucial for proper sticking) side view mirror and get ready to see everything in your blind spot that you have been missing.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #4: Do Your Routine Maintenance</strong></p>
<p>Get your oil changed regularly. (The <em>Your Mechanic</em> website recommends every 5,000 to 10,000 miles). Check the air pressure in your tires and add air as needed. Check your fluid (oil, brake, transmission, coolant/antifreeze, power steering) levels and add accordingly. Take care of problems before they become disasters.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #5: Carry Basic Automotive Supplies</strong></p>
<p>I have a pair of jumper cables in my van. I believe everyone should carry jumper cables, especially if traveling to areas where it might take a long time/be impossible for roadside assistance to get to you. It’s usually fairly easy to find a helpful person to give your battery a jump start, but helpful people don’t always have jumper cables.</p>
<p>In addition to jumper cables, I have a jack and a tire iron. I also typically carry brake fluid, oil, and antifreeze/coolant.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #6: Don’t Hit the Road Without a Paper Map</strong></p>
<p>Sure, sure, GPS systems and map apps are great–if they work. I did a Google search on “did people really drive off cliff while following GPS” and came up with a whole list of GPS disaster stories. GPS systems really do lead people astray.</p>
<p>I’ve never used GPS, but I do tend to rely on Google Maps. I use Google Maps on my laptop to map out routes in unfamiliar cities, and I use it to decide how to get from a city (or nature area) to my next destination. Several times while traveling in California, Google Maps has directed me to roads that don’t exist or sent me well out of my way.</p>
<p>On a couple of occasions, I’ve been able to pull over and use the Google Maps app on my phone to recalibrate from my current location. But recently, after Google Maps sent me on a wild goose chase–out of my way–hour long–gas guzzling–circular excursion, I stopped at a gas station to figure out what I should do from there. Google Maps told me what to do, but I immediately realized it was all wrong. Highway 49 was not the same as Main Street, and the directions told me to go the same way from which I’d just come. So I pulled out my atlas and figured out where I was and where I wanted to be. Turns out a nearby highway was a straight shot from point A to point B. If I had looked at the paper map before I hit the road, I would have seen that Google Maps had sent me on a route that was never going to take me where I wanted to go</p>
<p><strong>Rule #7: Stock Up on Essentials Before You Leave Civilization</strong></p>
<p>Before I head out to a remote area, I make sure I have everything I need. Even if I can find a store in a small town selling the necessity I’ve forgotten, I’m going to pay more for it in a remote location. These are the essentials I make sure I have before I head out of Babylon: food, water, ice, propane, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, wet wipes, gasoline.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #8: Tell Someone Where You Will Be</strong></p>
<p>I have a trusted friend I text everyday if I have cell service. Before I hit the road, I tell her where I’m going. When I arrive, if I have cell service, I text her to let her know I am safe. If I change my plans, I alert her. If she doesn’t hear from me, she checks in. I know doing this won’t save me if someone decides to hurt me, but I feel more confident knowing someone will realize pretty quickly if I disappear and be able to direct a search party to a starting point.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #9: Bungee Cords Are Your Friend</strong></p>
<p>I’ve spent a lot of time picking up plastic drawers and tubs (and their contents) from the floor of the van. Rapid braking and sharp turns made my belongings tumble to the floor. Now I’ve got my stuff tied down with bungee cords. I buy the cheap ones, as they don’t really have to be super strong. They just have to be strong enough to keep my life from flying around as I drive.</p>
<p><strong>Rule #10: Don’t Forget to Have Fun</strong></p>
<p>Having fun is one of the reasons we’re doing this van living stuff, right? We get to travel and see amazing places. We get to explore because we’re not tied down, not spending a huge portion of our money on rent. So don’t get so uptight and worried about what might go wrong that you forget to have fun. In my experience, a bit of prior planning (maintaining the vehicle, strapping down with bungee cords, knowing where my keys are) allows me to relax, arrive safely at my destination, and have a good time while I’m there.</p>
<p><a href="http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ol-Betsy.jpg"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-7879" src="http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Ol-Betsy.jpg" alt="ol-betsy" width="640" height="480" /></a></p>
<p><em>I took the photos in this post, except for the one of the blind spot mirror, which is an Amazon link.</em></p>
" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="wp-image-7881 size-full" src="http://whygo-amr.s3.amazonaws.com/www.lasvegaslogue.com/files/2007/12/Hoover-Dam-with-Bridge.jpg" alt="" width="500" height="333" />
I did not take this photo.
We’d been in Vegas.
By “we,” I mean me, Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, the Fighting Couple, and their two dogs. By Vegas, I mean Las Vegas, as in Nevada. We’d left New Mexico and were heading to Mesquite, NV, where there was supposed to be a Rainbow Gathering.
It had been my first time in Vegas. We pulled in around 11pm, and to my amazement, easily found a free parking spot. The Fighting Couple stayed in the van with the dogs, allegedly sleeping, but probably bickering too. Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, and I spent a few hours on The Strip, spending no money and marveling at the insanity of Las Vegas casinos. (At least I was marveling. That place is over-the-top extravagant, and we were only seeing the first layer of opulence.)
It was around two in the morning when the boys and I got back to the van. Mr. Carolina drove us out of town and into the darkness of the desert.
Suddenly, out of the darkness was much light. We were at the Hoover Dam. Of course we wanted to see it, even if it was the middle of the night, and apparently we could. There is a parking/observation area that is open to visitors 24/7.
Mr. Carolina nosed the van toward the security checkpoint at the entrance, but Mr. Fighting Couple saw a sign saying vehicles were subject to search. He had illegal drugs on his person and freaked out. He told Mr. Carolin to turn around, Turn Around, TURN AROUND, so Mr. Carolina made a U-turn in the nighttime empty road.
Sweet L started talking reasonably. We were already there. Didn’t we want to see the dam? The security guards weren’t going to search the whole van in the middle of the night. Didn’t we want to see the dam?
I, for one, did want to see the dam. It was right there, and we were right here, and maybe I’d never get another chance to see it. I voted to visit. And maybe I had extra sway because it was my van.
So Mr. Carolina made another U-turn. All of this U-turning was happening in view of the security checkpoint, and we must have looked hella suspicious.
We pulled up to the security checkpoint and stopped. The guards eyed the van and all of us within it with skepticism. They said they wanted to look in the back of the van, asked us to open the back doors. I jumped out, ran around to the back, opened the doors. One of the guards joined me behind the van. He took a perfunctory look inside, made sure we were not blatantly transporting bombs. We were sent on our way with the stern warning, You CANNOT sleep here. I couldn’t even be outraged because, yes, we did look like the type who would try to camp illegally at the Hoover Dam.
I didn’t take this photo either.
After all that, the dam itself was a bit anti-climatic. Sure, it was big, in a sort of H.P. Lovecraft giant monster scary sort of way. I was glad to see it, but it was just a dam, after all.
I’ve included some more information about the Hoover Dam, for your reading pleasure. The info comes from http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/faqs/damfaqs.html.
Where is Hoover Dam?
In Black Canyon spanning the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.
How tall is Hoover Dam?
It is 726.4 feet from foundation rock to the roadway on the crest of the dam. The towers and ornaments on the parapet rise 40 feet above the crest.
How much does Hoover Dam weigh?
More than 6,600,000 tons.
What are the geologic conditions at the dam site?
The foundation and abutments are rock of volcanic origin geologically called “andesite breccia.” The rock is hard and very durable.
How long did it take to build the dam, powerplant, and appurtenant works?
Five years. The contractors were allowed seven years from April 20, 1931, but concrete placement in the dam was completed May 29, 1935, and all features were completed by March 1, 1936.